The NBA is Stephen Curry’s world right now, let’s stop kidding ourselves. His unbelievable season with the Golden State Warriors is all anybody can talk about. He’s the MVP, the best player on the planet (arguably), and he’s doing things nobody has done before. It’s understandable why Curry receives so much attention, but his dominance has caused the world to forget that there are other players doing incredible things as well.
Offensive players always receive more attention than, say, a lockdown defender. Watching players score buckets left and right is, for most fans, more entertaining than watching a guy grab a bunch of rebounds. However, the point of basketball is to score more points than your opponent. Without players who can shutdown the opposition and stop them from scoring, winning championships becomes nearly impossible. Therefore, the value of great defenders can’t be overstated.
So, in case you haven’t been paying attention due to “Curry vision,” we wanted to shed light on some of the best defenders in the league. One of these five guys will likely walk away with the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award following the season, so we ranked them in order of likeliness to take home the hardware.
5. Draymond Green
We start with Curry’s Golden State teammate Draymond Green, who — aside from turning into a triple-double machine this season — has easily proved his worth for the league-best Warriors on the defensive end as well. Among Green’s impressive defensive metrics, he ranks 11th in the league in defensive rating, sixth in defensive win shares, and third in defensive plus-minus.
Green also shows his rebounding ability by grabbing 9.6 boards per game (good for 13th in the league). The Michigan State product has turned into one of the most versatile players in the NBA and can have a positive effect for the Warriors in just about every phase of the game. His defensive value has been critical for Golden State’s pursuit of history this season, which has to at least put Green in the DPOY conversation .
4. DeAndre Jordan
While DeAndre Jordan’s biggest claim to fame might be his role in last season’s offseason drama between the Clippers and Mavericks, there’s no doubting the huge impact he has on the court. Offensively, Jordan shoots the highest field-goal percentage in the NBA and is a consistent target for Chris Paul’s alley-oops. It’s on defense, though, where Jordan really earns his paycheck. He’s second in blocks and rebounds, securing many of those boards on the defensive end.
Further, the Texas A&M product owns the fifth-best defensive rating in the league and the fourth-most defensive win shares (along with the fourth-best defensive plus-minus). Jordan is the anchor of a defense on a Clippers’ team trying to shock everyone and compete with the top dogs in the Western Conference. With their DPOY-caliber big man on hand, they have a chance to do just that.
3. Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond has sort of burst onto the scene for the Detroit Pistons. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been a good player in past seasons, but Dummond has been so good in 2015-16 that he earned his first career All-Star berth. He’s the leading rebounder in the league — which is the main thing he’s know for. However, Drummond is also in the top 20 in blocks per game, owns the third-best defensive rating, and the most defensive win shares.
Those numbers on defense have led Drummond to a top-20 ranking in overall player efficiency (which really shows the value of any given player). Seeing as he’s productive on offense — with nearly 17 points per game — for the Pistons as well, Drummond is critical to the success of a potential playoff club. It would be no surprise to see him earn the top defensive honor this season.
2. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard does it all for the San Antonio Spurs. An excellent offensive player, Leonard puts up nearly 21 points per night, shoots the second-highest three-point percentage in the league, and has the sixth-highest offensive rating in pro basketball. Those numbers make it hard to believe that Leonard might be even better on the defensive end of the floor.
With nearly two steals per game and a low “field percentage against” mark, Leonard earns the second-most defensive win shares in the NBA and has the second-highest defensive rating. Put it all together and you have the sixth-most efficient player in the game today. MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, whatever it is, Leonard will walk away with some type of hardware this offseason. His ability could lead the Spurs to another championship ring as well.
1. Hassan Whiteside
It’s time people start paying serious attention to Hassan Whiteside, who has turned into a monster for the Miami Heat. A young player with limited experience entering this season, Whiteside finds himself leading the league in blocks by a wide margin. He also grabs the fourth-most rebounds in the game and accounts for the fifth-most defensive win shares. Maybe most impressively, Whiteside is the highest-rated defender in the league and has the second-best defensive plus-minus.
Couple all of that with a high shooting percentage and three triple-double games this season and you have the ninth-most efficient player in the NBA. On a team that includes the terrific Dwyane Wade and other pieces, no player may be more valuable to the Heat’s chances at contending this season than Whiteside. A DPOY trophy could be just the beginning of a line of accolades in his career.