by Nico Fiscella
The Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ladder has been updated. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert lost his lead to Ben Simmons. Simmons sits as the frontrunner to win the award. At this point in the season, Simmons, Gobert, and Bam Adebayo are the three clear front runners for the award. but the statistics show why Rudy Gobert should walk away with his third defensive player of the year.
Without looking at the names, which player looks the best defensively? The stats shown below go as follows: defensive rebounds, steals, and blocks.
Player A: 5.9/1.6/.7
Player B: 10.1/0.5/2.8
Player C: 6.8/1.1/1.1
Player A is Ben Simmons, Player B is Rudy Gobert, and Player C is Bam Adebayo. While Simmons is at a significant height disadvantage, the last time a guard won defensive player of the year was Gary Payton back in the 1995-1996 season.
Gobert dominates the rebounding category. He is edging Adebayo, the fellow center candidate for this award, by three rebounds. It should also be noted that Gobert is averaging almost three blocks per game. He is second in blocks per game and is one of four players to be averaging over two blocks per game.
It is difficult comparing the defensive play of a guard and center. Statistics show that Simmons relies on stealing the ball while the two big men focus on their presence in the paint.
Outside of those three statistics, defensive rating is one of the most crucial statistics when looking at how good a player is defensively. The lower the rating, the better the player.
Player 1: 101.5
Player 2: 108.2
Player 3: 106.3
Player 1 is Gobert, Player 2 is Adebayo, and Player 3 is Simmons. Gobert’s defensive rating is significantly better than the other two. This shows who should be the leader for Defensive Player of the Year.
When looking at defensive win shares, there are only three players that are ahead of Rudy Gobert. Spencer Dinwiddie and Henry Ellison do have higher win shares. However, they both played in less than three games this season.
The only player that has played a significant amount of time this season that ranks ahead of Gobert is fellow Utah teammate Mike Conley. Conley’s .181 defensive win shares just barely edges Gobert at .175.
Where do Simmons and Adebayo stand in defensive win shares? Simmons is all the way down at number 12 overall. Simmons, with .137 win shares, is sitting behind Dante Exum of the Houston Rockets.
As for Adebayo, he sits at number 24 with poor defensive guards Devonte Graham and Derrick Rose ahead of him.
While the Defensive Player of the Year is awarded to the best defensive player of the season, it should be noted where their respected teams rank defensively. Gobert’s Jazz sit third in points allowed per game. The 76ers are fifth and the Heat sit sixth.
When looking at defensive ratings as a team, the 76ers (107.8) just barely edge the Jazz (108.1). Philadelphia has the second best rating while Utah sits behind them at three. Miami is not too far from those two. The Heat have the fifth best rating at 110.2.
In the NBA’s latest post discussing the ladder, their main argument for Simmons being the frontrunner discusses the last couple of games. Simmons was sidelined for four consecutive games, and the 76ers gave up 119 points during that stretch. Once Simmons returned to the lineup, the team look competent when defending the hoop.
The main argument to Rudy Gobert’s drop in the rankings goes back to their recent loss to the Timberwolves. With less than six seconds remaining, D’Angelo Russell was left wide-open in the paint. He scored the easiest two points on the night. The layup gave Minnesota a 105-104 lead. This caused the Jazz to lose to the worst team in the western conference. It wasn’t a good headline for the team with the best record in the NBA.
While it was a defensive mistake that cost Utah the game, the Jazz defense has been top five all year. One play should not cost a player deserving of an award to walk away empty-handed.
With ten games remaining in the season, the race for defensive player of the year will be a close one to keep an eye on. While it would be historic for Ben Simmons to walk away with the award, the numbers speak for themselves as to why Rudy Gobert deserves his third Defensive Player of the Year award.
Featured image courtesy NBA website