Solid Defense: Who Gets to Swat their NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award?

Who Gets to Swat their NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award image

📖 Published on: February 27th, 2024

✍️ Updated: February 28th, 2024

⏳ 12 mins read


Dating as far as the early days of basketball, it has already been a principle to remember that defense wins games aside from offense. As the NBA ushers into an era of innovation on defensive schemes from various teams in the league, it is expected that some key players shine bright on the big stage for their impressive defensive performances night in and night out.


What Makes a Player Worthy of the DPOY?


The standards are quite high when it comes to the Defensive Player of the Year. Individual feats like this aren’t usually discussed, and it is also safe to assume that some of the players aren’t even recognized at all before the end of the season – the time when the award is usually given. But to sum it up, the DPOY holds high standards compared to other awards.


First of all, a DPOY candidate usually has leading stats when it comes to blocks and steals. However, that is not the end of it. There’s also the case of win shares, shots contested, forced turnovers, which aren’t usually seen in a stat sheet and are part of the NBA’s advanced stats to further determine the efficiency rating of players.


Of course, the overall impact on a team’s chances of winning is seriously considered to be one of the strongest factors that play a huge role in a player’s defensive contribution. This is why it is a must to consider multiple factors to gauge the whole picture of a player’s ability to dictate the game with just their defensive upside.


Who is the Reigning Defensive Player of the Year?


Jaren Jackson Jr. image


Jaren Jackson Jr. is the reigning defensive player of the year after winning the award last season. That time, JJJ averaged 18.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks. He led the Grizzlies to a second-place finish with a 51-31 record in the Western Conference. His defensive strides have fueled Memphis to be one of the best teams in the West, before their immediate collapse in the first round of the NBA Playoffs – losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since then, JJJ has never been the same in this season. Memphis was riddled with injuries, and Jackson Jr. was not an exemption to that end. The Grizzlies are now one of the lowly teams in the Western Conference. This means that Jackson Jr. will be out of the equation for this year’s DPOY race.


But who knows, maybe he can come back stronger and healthier next season and contend for the said award once more. He will just need to get his best buddy Ja Morant back in the mix while the rest of the Memphis Grizzlies continue to recover from an injury-plagued season. JJJ is still young, and so is the rest of the Grizzlies, and you can expect him to get back on the DPOY conversation next year.


Who Are the Top Picks to Win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year this Season?


As the second half of the 2023-24 season burns through the games, the DPOY race has been seemingly thinned down to a few picks who have consistently made an impact in their games this season. Complimented by their respective teams’ success, it does seem that these candidates will have a fair chance to win the DPOY by the end of the season, and experts even predict this to be a tight race as well.


So who are the top picks to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award this season? Let’s dive deep with a detailed discussion.


Rudy Gobert - Minnesota Timberwolves


As far as defensive consistency is concerned, there is no denying that Rudy Gobert is well on his way to winning his fourth DPOY by the end of the season. As the main defensive anchor for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, there is no denying that the French big has done a great job of proving his case throughout the season. His ability to contest shots even from the best players in the game is just surreal, and that explains a lot about him being the favorite to win this year.

Gobert started the season with the best odds to win the DPOY, and those numbers have changed for the campaign as the Timberwolves had some hiccups, especially last January where they didn't have much of a consistent pace.


Rudy Gobert image


Still, the Wolves’ top-rated defense has been phenomenal and a game-changer in their success in the West, which further cements his case for the DPOY. After all, a team holding the rest of the NBA to 107 points per game is something special.


Chet Holmgren - Oklahoma City Thunder


Chet Holmgren image


Oklahoma City’s surge to the top of the West comes as a massive boost for Chet Holmgren’s case as the Defensive Player of the Year. There’s no denying that the big man’s presence alone has given OKC a lift to the top, and now they are arriving way too soon than expected. First of all, OKC is not that far behind the Wolves, which proves that Holmgren’s strong case for the DPOY should not be underestimated as well, especially when he ranks third among players in blocks per game at 2.6. Holmgren's big defensive upside has given the Thunder what they have needed all along to be a contender - a team battling for the first seed in the loaded Western Conference at that.


Despite missing the whole 2022-23 season, Holmgren has not then missed a game this season and has been one of the major reasons why the Thunder ranks fourth in defensive rating over the past few weeks, and Holmgren’s enthusiastic shot contention leads the league in altered possessions as well. What makes him special is that he is only in his first year and has already eclipsed the 150+ block total, and add that to his high rank in defensive win shares.


Bam Adebayo - Miami Heat


With Jimmy Butler missing some key games for the Heat over the past few weeks, and the rest of the squad dealing with injury troubles, Bam Adebayo has stepped up well for the team so far, especially in his defensive upside. Miami is poised to finish the season as a top-10 defense for the fourth year in a row – and Adebayo is certainly to take credit for that as well. What makes him special is that he always maintains an active presence on the defensive end – even if he faces mismatches. His consistency in the Heat's games has proven to be crucial in their campaign to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference even with almost the whole starting unit missing big games, and his defense has been ranked among the best defensive centers the NBA has seen.


Bam Adebayo image


However, one should also consider that Adebayo is close to being ineligible should he miss more than seven games en route to the season finish. This case has already made Joel Embiid ineligible for the MVP award and the DPOY, so Adebayo needs to play more games and ensure that the Miami Heat will stay on track for a playoff push in the standings as well. Who knows, maybe he can bag the DPOY with a shocking comeback in the odds.


Anthony Davis - Los Angeles Lakers


Anthony Davis image


While the Los Angeles Lakers have been pretty much mid for most of the season, it is an understatement to say that Anthony Davis has been quiet in his case for the DPOY race. The big man has been an impressive star on the defensive end, being fifth in overall blocks per game and fourth in rebounds. This is also the healthiest campaign that the star has seen in years, missing only a total of four games as of the time of writing. Davis has been instrumental in keeping the Lakers afloat in their Play-In aspirations, and his defense is one of the best that the league has seen in a long while while being able to perform at a high level on the offensive end.


Davis is currently second in the defensive win-share column, and it says a lot as to how he is making an impact for his team on the defensive side night in and night out. Still, the Lakers may need to make some noise on their climb to the Playoff spots if Davis is going to be considered for a bigger chance at the DPOY as well.


Jarrett Allen - Cleveland Cavaliers


It can be remembered that Jarrett Allen really underperformed in that first-round exit to the New York Knicks in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Since then, the star center has made his case well-known for the DPOY, anchoring the 2nd-seed Cleveland Cavaliers in a tight race while also leading them to have the league’s second-best defensive rating. No one can discount the effect that he’s had to the Cavs’ dash to the top, which proves his case so far. The improved chemistry for the Cavaliers has also impacted his defensive performance, allowing him to be more fluid on his shot-blocking and imposing his dominance on the paint. This has been the case for the Cavs as they continue to make a climb in the East.


Jarrett Allen image


Allen on the floor brings a huge impact on the defensive end for the Cavs. Opponents are not daring to shoot close to six feet against the star, and he is also crashing the boards harder than before. The lack of traditional stats will certainly play a huge role in Allen’s case, but no one should ever bat an eye that the Cavaliers’ defense has been really stingy and irritable as of late thanks to this big man at the helm who is anchoring that defense.


What to Expect in the DPOY Race in the 2023-24 NBA Season?


The elite rim protectors from all over the NBA have done a great job of proving their worth on the big stage. The race to the DPOY award is still something that fans can expect more especially when the season goes down to its final games. Teams will surely try to make one last run to end the season on a high note, and these DPOY candidates will step up even further to help their teams achieve that.


Now it seems that the DPOY race will go even deeper, and it is down to these five candidates to battle it out for the rest of the season. Make sure to stay tuned with GambleSpot for more NBA and sports updates! Don’t miss out on our blogs and predictions that will give you the best chance to win in your wagers today!


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