With 2014 in the books, it’s time to take a step aside and assess what we’ve seen thus far in this very exciting and unpredictable NBA Season. The playoff picture has begun to take a more solid shape, as have our awards races.
Prior to the season we compiled our Defensive Player of The Year Preview. As we near the halfway mark of the season, there are some familiar faces remaining in the hunt, some names we overlooked the first time around, and one surprising guy who’s shaken up not only our DPOY race, but has helped turn the NBA on it’s head as well.
Dwight Howard has missed a significant amount of time this year due to injury. With that being said, the Rockets rarely missed a beat as James Harden has usurped his own production from a year ago. Houston currently sits at 5th place in the uber competitive West. As the season wears on and he continues to put in great performances on his specialized end of the floor, Dwight Howard will once again find himself in the running to bring home an award that is almost as synonymous with him as are his dunks.
The reigning DPOY is another guy who’s missed some significant time. His team has not missed a beat as well, as Derrick Rose & Pau Gasol have made the Bulls a very honorable pick to win the Eastern Conference championship. Noah’s numbers fall right in line with what he’s done his whole career. A period of good health and continued average play should once again have Noah in the conversation for DPOY.
Where did this supreme shot blocking ability come from? Pau must’ve stolen a few pages out of his brother’s scrap book. The elder Gasol has been a tremendous addition to the already lethal Chicago Bulls. Not only has he complimented Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler, he’s one-upped them and become the Bulls’ best defensive player. I’m sure a certain team in Los Angeles might be regretting showing Pau the door a little too early.
As a guard, it’s typically very difficult to crack the Defensive Player of the Year list. Only a handful of guards have ever won the award (Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, Metta World Peace to name a few). In today’s NBA there might not be a better defensive guard than Memphis’ Tony Allen. On and off the court, Allen is a simply a player you do not mess with. He hounded KD for 7 games in the 2014 Playoffs, and has only continued his suffocating style of play this season. How tough is Tony Allen? Just ask OJ Mayo…
#5 Serge Ibaka
The third member of OKC’s Big 3 has been nothing short of stellar this season. As injuries have riddled his team (primarily Durant & Westbrook) Ibaka has been consistent enough on both ends of the floor to give his team a fighting chance to stay in the playoff race while his Big 3 counterparts fought off the injury bug. His rebounding numbers have taken a slight dip from last year, but he is once again averaging north of 2 blocks per 48.
Ibaka is one of the most feared rim protectors in the association; with a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, OKC’s defensive rating a team will only improve, and the spotlight will only get bigger for the big man from Congo.
#4 Draymond Green
Your eyes are not deceiving you, you’ve read it right. Draymond Green’s surprising play is one of the key reasons why the Golden State Warriors are a legitimate contender for not only the Western Conference crown, but for the NBA crown period.
Mr. Green has taken full advantage of David Lee’s absence by not only rewarding his coach with solid play on all fronts, but by throwing his name into both the Defensive Player of the Year race as well as the Most Improved Player race. He leads the NBA in both Defensive Rating and Defensive Win Shares. A
long with Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut, Green has turned the Warriors into a truly respectable defensive team. With David Lee’s return looming in the balance, look for Draymond Green to up his play even more, leaving Steve Kerr with a very desirable dilemma.
#3 Marc Gasol
Once known as the other Gasol, it’s pretty safe to say that Marc has charted his own lane out of the shadows of big brother Pau. The Grind em Grizzlies are once again near the top of the NBA in defensive rating, points allowed per game and almost every other key defensive team statistic.
Big Marc is a key component of Memphis’ stifling defense. A great rebounder and solid shot blocker in his own right, Gasol’s defensive statistics take a bit of a hit due to teams not really challenging the big man in the paint. True definition of a rim protector; granted he has some very solid defensive help on the perimeter. Nonetheless, Gasol won the DPOY award a few years back with similar statistics, so as long as Memphis maintains it’s identity down the stretch, look for Gasol to be near the top of this list for the remainder of the season.
#2 Anthony Davis
No player has had as mercurial of a rise as New Orleans’ Swiss Army knife Anthony Davis. The kid does it all, LITERALLY. He opened up the season with a 9-block performance and has continued his stellar defensive play through the early going.
The rest of his team has finally turned the corner in many ways (primarily Tyreke Evans) and New Orleans is realistically in the thick of the playoff race out west. Unreal if you ask me. As for AD, he leads the league in blocks per with 2.9 a game. He’s second in PER, top ten in rebounds with 10.5 a game, and did we mention, Anthony Davis is also in the running for Most Valuable Player. All around, there probably isn’t another player more valuable to his team right now than Anthony Davis.
# 1 DeAndre Jordan
Silly, silly me. At the beginning of the season, there was 1 name I unknowingly omitted from the DPOY preview. None other than Deandre Jordan.
DeAndre has been typical Deandre this season. The Clippers’ big man is blocking everything that comes his way, grabbing every rebound in sight, and on the offensive end he’s scoring almost every opportunity he gets (other than free throws of course). There is no other player in the association today, that opposing players completely shut down around. When Deandre is on the floor, teams simply do not attack the paint on the Clippers.
DAandre has been blatantly overlooked for this award in years past, but something tells me that will not be the case this year. After a bumpy start, the Clippers are back to their usual selves. Doc’s touch has his team primed to make a serious run down going into the All-Star break and beyond.