2014-15 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Preview
As basketball players, we are all taught that defense wins championships. Interestingly enough, some of the NBA’s brightest stars completely neglect the game on the defensive front (see James Harden’s critically acclaimed defensive mix on Youtube for reference). In all fairness, playing solid defense can be taxing. Hence, most of the game’s elite players only really play defense down the stretch; a la LeBron James. In today’s NBA, most of the defensive responsibilities are handled by Big Men. Every so often we might get a guard/wing player sneak in and win the award. Michael Jordan, Gary Payton and Ron Artest all won the award in their primes. It certainly is refreshing to see guards own up to their defensive responsibilities, but historically this award has been reserved for the game’s top big men.
The Defensive Player of the Year award was once regarded as the Dwight Howard trophy. The polarizing center was the award 3 times in a row from 2009-11. Since then, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah and even Serge Ibaka have supplanted him as the premier guys on the defensive front. With that being said, Dwight Howard is finally fully recovered from his back injury that plagued his lone season in tinseltown. Will that be enough to give “Superman 3.0” his 5th DPOY award? Will Gasol, Noah or Ibaka bring it home? Or will guys like Tony Allen, Patrick Beverley & Andre Iguodala throw a wrench in the race? One more name to mention who is quickly cementing himself as a top 5 player in the Association is the unibrow himself: Anthony Davis. Will this be his year?
A healthy Paul George would possibly find himself onto our top 5 list. The gruesome leg injury he suffered over the summer with Team USA all but ended his 2014-15 season before it even took off. Out of respect, PG13 lands here, as he is one of the best two way players in the game.
Watching Klay Thompson over the summer turned a lot of heads. Not only is he a deadeye marksman, he truly can be qualified as a lockdown defender out of the 2Guard spot. Using his long 6’7 frame, Klay makes life hard for opposing guards and wings. Doesn’t hurt either when the Black Mamba himself praises you as having the total package.
Drummond is a guy who very well could find himself dominating this award for year’s to come. A solid rim protector with an absurd amount of athletic ability, Drummond locks down the paint. If only his offensive game was up to speed with his defensive game, Drummond could very well become one of the game’s best center’s. With a new coach who has a track record of getting the best out of his bigs, Drummond’s ceiling could be blown off completely under the tutelage of Stan Van Gundy.
When Sanders is focused on the task at hand, there are very few players who make as big of an impact on the defensive side of the ball than he. Key words: when focused. It’s bad enough he’s stuck in Milwaukee, but the tide might be changing in Brewtown. With Jason Kidd at the helm, and the youth takeover fully underway, Larry Sanders might see himself once again engaged in the game for 48 minutes like he was when Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis were running the show.
Let’s be fair, LeBron was robbed of a defensive player of the year award two seasons ago. Marc Gasol had a great year, but LeBron was keyed in defensively. The Heat won 66 Regular Season games, went on a 27 Game win streak and ultimately won the title in 7 games against the Spurs. Not to mention, LeBron is arguably the best two way player in the game without a doubt. No other franchise player prides himself on defense quite like King James
#5A Patrick Beverley
No Point Guard in the league plays defense quite like Mr. Beverley. Beverley, aka Public Enemy #1 in Oklahoma City, is a hound. There’s no other way around it. Whether it’s preseason, shoot around, All-Star game i’d imagine… You name it, Patrick Beverley is ready to go at all times. Fresh off a season where he was named to the Defensive 2nd team, look for Beverley to help shore up the deficiencies of a certain Bearded Assasin. Just ask Jrue Holiday about Patrick Beverley.
#5B Tony Allen
When you’re able to contain and bother Kevin Durant for 7 games in the playoffs, you sir are an elite defensive threat. Tony Allen definitely is the GRIT to the Grizzles Grit & Grind system. Much like Beverley, Allen just handles his defensive duties with the nastiness of a junkyard dog. The great thing is that he keeps on coming. Whether he stops you or gets scored on, he’s ready to go the very next possession.
#4 Dwight Howard
The aforementioned Dwight Howard lands at the 4 spot on our list. A healthy Dwight Howard quite honestly is the best defensive player in the NBA. No center has had this type of effect defensively since Ben Wallace. Only Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace have more DPOY awards than DH12 himself. Howard will surely be called into work often as James Harden poses as the most frustrating guy to deal with on the defensive end. Luckily for DH12, Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza will help shore up some defensive woes. Dwight himself has felt slighted by the voting the committee as of late, as they have given his award away to Gasol and Noah in respective years. Look for him to stake his claim to an award that seemed to be rightfully his to earn almost yearly.
#3 Serge Ibaka
When your nickname is Serge IBlockYa, what else needs to be said about your defensive ability? Mr. Ibaka, fresh out of Congo, has grown meteorically since his debut in 2009. Year after year he’s grown not just defensively but offensively as well. Athletic, strong and agile enough to guard positions 3-5, Ibaka very well could’ve won this award each of the last 2 years. His impact cannot be quantified. Just look at the Western Conference Finals last year. The first two games of the series, OKC was blown out by San Antonio. Enter Ibaka, OKC rallied to tie the series up at 2 apiece. However it was all for naught as the Spurs closed the Thunder out in 6 games.
#2 Marc Gasol
The 2012-13 DPOY Gasol is one of the best overall players in the Association. If Tony Allen is the grit, Gasol is the GRIND… Along with Zach Randolph, Gasol has helped the Grizzlies become one of the most feared defensive teams in the association. Playing Memphis, you know you’ll be in for a drawn out, low scoring game. That’s a huge testament to Gasol’s innate abilities to cover the paint and beyond as a true 7-footer. The biggest knock on Gaasol has most certainly been his health in recent years. If he can manage to stay healthy yearlong, he’ll find himself in the mix to once again win this award.
#1A Joakim Noah
The reigning defensive player of the year. That alone puts him atop this list. However as we go deeper into the subject matter we stake a very firm argument as to why Noah could reel this award in once again. Noah is a rare Big who can come out and guard positions 1-5. Not for entire games, but Noah is one of the best hedge guys in the pick & roll. He’s highly effective at limiting the success of stretch bigs as well, as he is mobile enough to cover the ground from the paint to the perimeter. We also know that defense is a team game, and Noah’s supporting cast just got a whole lot better with the return of Derrick Rose and the acquisition of Pau Gasol. The bulls should once again be the best defensive team in the association, with Noah as their best defensive player.
#1B Anthony Davis
Absurd… Unreal… Freak… All of these adjectives perfectly describe Anthony Davis. As opening night evidenced, Davis is the one guy who poses the biggest threat to Joakim Noah’s defensive reign, as he is also the one player who disrupts the tug of war between Kevin Durant and LeBron James for MVP. His summer with Team USA put him on the global radar, but true basketball crazies have known about this kid for a while. A former HS Guard who had a Dennis Rodman like growth spurt, but kept those guard skills… Davis is a monstar (Space Jam Reference) in the flesh. His long arms serve as windshield wipers, swatting away at any shot close and far. His defensive numbers should put him in a class all to himself as he may have the weakest defensive supporting cast of anyone on this list. Look for him to once again be tops in the league in blocks, near the top in rebounds, and round out the top 5 in defensive win shares. If the Pelicans can make some noise out west and stay healthy, the Defensive Player of the Year award might not be the only silverware the Unibrow takes home this year.