Will Draymond Repeat As Best Defender In The NBA?
Best Defensive Player Of The Year Bets
Draymond Green +160
Golden State Warriors
After finishing runner-up to Kawhi Leonard for two consecutive years, voters finally saw Draymond for what he’s been all along: the defensive lynchpin of one of the best teams in history.
Green gathered 73% of the first-place votes, winning his first defensive player of the year award by a landslide in 2017. He finished in a three-way tie for most steals per game with John Wall and Chris Paul, an amazing achievement for a power forward. Along with 2.0 steals per game, Draymond had 1.4 blocks per game, tied for eleventh-best with Robin Lopez.
Last year, the Golden State Warriors had the best opposition shooting percentage in the NBA, allowing enemy teams to shoot a scant .435 from the field, eight percent better than the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies. Even with a dip in offensive numbers, Draymond’s defense is so clutch that he also collects MVP votes. He’s also the favorite to repeat as an award winner.
Rudy Gobert +325
Watching Gobert’s defensive highlights seems strange, because he’s all over the court, guarding every position on the court. A center over seven feet tall shouldn’t be able to keep pace with point guards on the perimeter, but Rudy’s no ordinary big man.
This French phenom has been rounding into his prime, and with Hayward defecting from the Utah Jazz to Boston, the NBA will witness what he can do as a franchise player.
When he entered the association as a skinny youngster, he immediately made an impression as a rim defender, rejecting an average of 3.2 shots per game over his first two seasons. After injury reduced his impact in 2015-16, Rudy returned to form last season, averaging 2.8 blocks per game.
The Stifle Tower leapfrogged over Kawhi Leonard in defensive player of the year voting, finishing second to Draymond Green with 16 percent of first place votes. This year, coach Quin Snyder will ask more of Gobert on both ends of the court. If the Jazz maintain a league-best defense this season, Rudy will earn his first defensive player of the year award.
Hassan Whiteside +900
There hasn’t been a presence at the rim like Hassan Whiteside since Ben Wallace intimidated the paint for the Pistons. Whiteside has a mean streak and the raw physicality to flat-out embarrass nearby shooters. In some cases, he simply snatches weak shots out of midair while the crowd gasps.
Whiteside bounced around the NBA because front offices didn’t believe he could control his mean streak, until Pat Riley and the Miami Heat unleashed Count Blockula on the NBA for the 2014-15 season. Since then, he’s averaged 2.8 blocks per game, including an incredible 3.7 during the 2015-16 campaign.
Hassan has learned to focus his energy over the past three seasons, becoming a key part of Miami’s incredible second-half comeback last year. As his minutes per game increase with his maturity, more voters will cast their ballot for Hassan this year.
Kawhi Leonard +300
San Antonio Spurs
LeBron James and Kevin Durant remain the best players in the NBA, but Kawhi Leonard’s the best two-way force in the association. Kawhi won two consecutive defensive player of the year awards in 2015 and 2016, finishing third last season behind Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert.
Leonard’s ascent as the quietest superstar in sports increased the offensive responsibility that coach Gregg Popovich heaped on Kawhi’s shoulders. As such, Leonard doesn’t have the same amount of energy to dedicate against opposing offenses. Since his career-best of 2.3 steals per game in 2014-15, his numbers dropped by half a steal per game over the past two seasons.
He’s still the best perimeter defender in the NBA, capable of completely smothering the trickiest guards and forwards in the association. As his scoring numbers continue to rocket for the San Antonio Spurs, he’ll be considered more for MVP instead of defensive player of the year, reducing the odds of a third win.
Anthony Davis +1000
New Orleans Pelicans
Davis has a bit of a disadvantage for defensive player of the year because of his spectacular offensive acumen. Last year, he exploded for 28 PPG on .518/.299/.802 shooting splits. This diverted focus away from his incredible defensive stats - 2.2 blocks per game and 1.3 steals per game, great numbers which were the lowest in his career.
Over the past four seasons, Davis has averaged 2.5 blocks per game and 1.3 steals per game on a Pelicans squad with little defensive depth. Sometimes, it appeared he was the only member of the roster capable of consistent defense.
This year, Davis will have a full year alongside DeMarcus Cousins. New Orleans also added Ian Clark from the Warriors, Rajon Rondo from the Bulls and Tony Allen from the Grizzlies – all superb defenders. If Davis stays healthy and gets defensive help on the perimeter, he could finish with a sub-100 defensive rating, enough for serious consideration as best defensive player in the NBA.
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