It’s the one award where centers — big men who make obvious contributions protecting the rim — may have the advantage. Rudy Gobert is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year — and will be a contender for the award again this year because he is an elite rim protector and because the Jazz built their defensive system around him, giving him a platform to shine.
This year’s race is interesting. Ben Simmons came in second in the voting to Gobert last season, but his status and how much he plays is still an unknown. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a previous winner and the guy NBA GMs said is the best defender in the league. Bam Adebayo and Clint Capela got DPOY votes last season and are longer shot possibilities.
Kurt Helin: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers’ offseason retooling of their roster turned this team from one that won their 2000 title with defense to one far more focused on offense. To counter that and keep Los Angeles respectable to good on the defensive end, expect a lot more Anthony Davis at center — he is an elite rim protector who will be asked to clean up a lot of problems. That’s a good recipe for winning this award, and Davis will undoubtedly get a narrative push from LeBron James.
The Bucks should again be a defensive force and that gives Antetokounmpo a real chance to win again (as a side note, Jrue Holiday gets overlooked too much in that system). Gobert is perennial. I think Clint Capela deserves consideration, and the fact he turned heads during the Hawks’ playoff run will have voters who didn’t notice him a year ago paying more attention.
This needs to be Anthony Davis’ best season, and the Lakers need bubble Davis if they are going to take back the title. I’m betting on Davis having the best season of his career — and staying healthy and playing 70+ games, something he hasn’t done for a few seasons — and with that taking home some defensive hardware for his work.
Dan Feldman: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Draymond Green and Anthony Davis are threats. Voters could punish Gobert for his defensive impact waning in prior playoffs. But Gobert is the NBA’s most consistently excellent regular-season defender. At a minimum, he’ll be in the mix for this award. I’ll take the safe bet.