This was the right call — and it’s a call that might not have been made a decade ago.
Marc Gasol was officially named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday. He was the frontrunner for the award, with LeBron James coming in second and Serge Ibaka of the Thunder in third.
It’s hard to put quality statistics on defense, but the advanced NBA metrics out there plus more sites that break down game tape (every NBA writer I know uses Synergy or the NBA’s media-available videos to watch breakdowns) have given the general fan a broader understanding of defense. It’s not just rebounds and blocked shots, it’s how a player impacts the defensive end in terms of altering what the other team does. Defense is looked at differently than a decade ago.
Gasol was the anchor and key to the second best defense in the NBA this season. Memphis allowed 95.4 points per 100 possessions with Gasol on the court and 102.2 points per 100 when he sat. He protects the rim (1.7 blocks a game, 12th best in the NBA) but more than that he anticipates the play better than any big man in the game — he just seems to always be in the right place at the right time contesting shots.
Gasol had 30 first place votes (out of 121 sportswriters and broadcasters) and 212 points. LeBron had 18 first place and 149 points, Ibaka 14 first place and 122.
The rest of the top 10 vote getters are Joakim Noah, Tony Allen, Tim Duncan, Larry Sanders, Paul George, Andre Iguodala and Roy Hibbert (that’s a little low for Hibbert in my book).
Odd votes that caught my eye were the person who voted Trevor Ariza second (he’s good but not THAT good) and same with Dwyane Wade.