We have reached the mid-point of the NBA season and we know a few things: Which teams are good (Warriors, Suns, Bulls and a few more), which teams are disappointments, and which players have set themselves up in the postseason award races. All week long, we will make our picks for some of the NBA’s top awards (MVP, Rookie of the Year).
Today: NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
Draymond Green’s value to the No. 1 defense in the NBA was evident on Tuesday night in the loss to Memphis. Back on Christmas Day against the Suns, Green was assigned Chris Paul to open the game, attempting to bottle up a potent Suns offense. Steve Kerr does that often, putting Green on guards or wings that are critical to an opposing team’s offense (he was on Damian Lillard in a recent meeting with Portland). With Green out against Memphis, Ja Morant blew by Andrew Wiggins and Juan Toscano-Anderson and scored or assisted on 20 of the Grizzlies’ 28 first quarter points.
Green alone might not have changed that game, but you could see how much the Warriors need him on defense. I’m suspicious of advanced stats for defense, but Green is the league leader in defensive estimated +/- (from Dunks and Threes, who do it as well as anyone). All of it combined is why I give Green the mid-season nod.
However, this is no runaway. Rudy Gobert is in the mix, as is Giannis Antetokounmpo. After that it’s a step down to another tier with Myles Turner, Jarrett Allen and others.
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Flip a coin between Rudy Gobert and Draymond Green. Though I’d prefer Green – with his versatility, basketball intelligence and mental toughness – in the playoffs, Gobert gets the slight edge so far for this regular-season award. Gobert’s rim protection goes a long way in covering for Utah’s shaky defenders in front of him.