The Defensive Player of the Year contest is dominated by big men, and our most recent NBA Power Rankings look at who is leading.
Defensive Player of the Year was exclusively the domain of big men for many years. The only other guard to win in the past 25 years, along with Gary Payton, was Marcus Smart, who did so last year. But in the past 25 years, we’ve also saw it go to a wing three times (Ron Artest and Kawhi Leonard twice), as well as to an utterly non-traditional big man in Draymond Green. Even last year, another wing, Mikal Bridges, was defeated by Smart.
ut while their appears to be a movement toward recognizing the defensive contributions of smaller players, this year’s Defensive Player of the Year race has been almost completely dominated by big men. We’ve seen a slew of fantastic rim protectors who have stretched their range and leveraged their mobility to completely control the center of the floor.
6. Nic Claxton, Brooklyn Nets
I was going to leave this list at five but I wanted to make sure I at least showed Nic Claxton a little love.
5. Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
This has been a down year for Gobert based on his own lofty standards but he’s still, easily, among the most impactful defenders in the league.
4. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus estimates Mobley to be THE most impactful defender in the league this season.
3. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Jackson Jr. might rank higher here if he hadn’t missed so many games early in the season. But his importance to the Grizzlies’ third-ranked defense is undeniable.
2. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Davis has been an absolute terror on defense this season, averaging 2.1 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. Jackson Jr. is the only other player above those thresholds this season and they reflect the diversity of his defensive impact.
1. Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
I have to tell you, there is some serious cognitive dissonance involved in an NBA fan of my age ranking Brook Lopez No. 1 in the Defensive Player of the Year race.