Rudy Gobert, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of Year, is one of the toughest defenders in the league. He can alter shots with ease and has averaged more than two blocks per game since his second season in the league.
Gobert is having another excellent season on the defensive end of the floor for the Utah Jazz and has a chance to win his second straight DPOY award. The question is, who can challenge Gobert and have a shot at the award? We look at the five players with the best chance to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year that aren’t named Rudy Gobert.
Rudy Gobert’s numbers
Before we discuss who could unseat Rudy Gobert as Defensive Player of the Year, let’s look at his numbers. Utah’s French menace in the paint averages a double-double with 15.4 points and 13 rebounds per game, and he’s earned 4.8 defensive win shares so far this season.
Joel Embiid — Philadelphia 76ers (13.6 RPG, 3.5 defensive win shares)
Joel Embiid is a dominant big man on both ends of the floor. He was a second-team All-NBA player last year and has produced another excellent campaign during the 2018-19 season. Philadelphia is a top-four team in the Eastern Conference, and the Sixers have one key stat going for them as we head into the playoffs.
They are tied for first in 3-point percentage allowed, giving up just 34% behind the arc. With Defensive Player of the Year candidate Embiid in the middle clogging the paint, the Sixers have become a good defensive team on the perimeter.
Kawhi Leonard — Toronto Raptors (1.8 SPG, 2.7 defensive win shares)
Kawhi “The Claw” Leonard has always been known for his defensive prowess, and the Raptors have looked like a tough team to beat in the Eastern Conference thanks to his play on that end of the floor. He is averaging nearly two steals per game for Toronto, and his 2.6% steal rate is one of the best in the league.
Leonard is also averaging more than eight rebounds per game and has 2.7 defensive win shares, which has proven extremely valuable as the Raptors battle for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. If Leonard continues at this pace he could earn his third NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Draymond Green — Golden State Warriors (1.5 SPG, 2.3 defensive win shares)
Green’s offensive numbers are way down this year, as he is averaging less than seven points per game, but he is still making plays on the defensive side of the ball. He hauls in more than seven rebounds per game to go along with 1.5 steals and has contributed to two win shares on defense.
The Warriors seem to turn things on and off throughout the regular season, but the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2016-17) should still be in contention for the award in 2019.
Paul George — Oklahoma City Thunder (2.2 SPG, 4.2 defensive win shares)
Paul George is having an MVP caliber season, and if he doesn’t win that prize he has a good shot of winning Defensive Player of the Year. He is scoring more than 28 points and dishing out more than four assists per game, and he has made excellent plays on both ends of the floor for the Thunder this year.
Georg is averaging more than two steals per game with an excellent 2.9% steal rate. He is also pulling down more than eight rebounds per game. If you want to score on the best perimeter defender in the league you better bring your A-plus game.
Anthony Davis — New Orleans Pelicans (2.5 BPG, 3.0 defensive win shares)
Although Anthony Davis wants to take his massive wingspan out of New Orleans, he is still bringing it night in and night out for the Pelicans. He has been one of the best post defenders in the league for years, and he is swatting 2.5 blocks per game this season.
Opposing offenses have a 6% chance of Davis swatting their shots, and his three defensive win shares is another testament to his value on that end of the floor. If a big man wins the Defensive Player of the Year award, then Davis should be the front runner.
Who do you think will win Defensive Player of the Year?
Now that we have seen our list of potential players that can unseat Rudy Gobert from the top of the NBA defensive food-chain, which player do you think can win the award? Is it Kawhi Leonard’s well-rounded defensive game? Or is Anthony Davis’ dominance on a bad team too hard to ignore? We’ll know for sure when the NBA announces the Defensive Player of the Year Award after the season.