Marc Gasol will be named Defensive Player of the Year, according to Chris Vernon of 92.9 FM ESPN in Memphis.
The Grizzlies center – who averaged 7.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals per game – isn’t a typical recipient of this award. Only 1987 winner Michael Cooper had lower per-game averages in all three of those primary defensive categories.*
*Yes, I’m aware rebounds include offensive rebounds, which are not a defensive statistic, but voters who care about per-game rebounding rarely distinguish between types of rebounds.
Gasol’s honor is a victory, not necessarily for better metrics, but for an attempt to better understand basketball.
Memphis, which ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating, allowed 95.4 points per 100 possessions with Gasol on the court and 102.2 points per 100 possessions with Gasol on the bench. More than those numbers, clips of Gasol’s defensive awareness were widely available via League Pass, Synergy, YouTube and other sources.
I suspect, more than ever, voters understood those numbers and saw that video.
Still, measuring individual defense is difficult, and it would be presumptuous to assume we can do it flawlessly. Maybe someday we’ll look back and wonder how these voters could be so foolish, but based on the best wisdom of the moment, Gasol is a worthy Defensive Player of the Year.