Everyone knows the old saying in sports: “defense wins championships.” As the All-Star break looms, the races for the league awards are beginning to take shape. Here are three players that could walk away with the Defensive Player of the Year award at the end of this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George could potentially walk away with two awards at the end of the year. Not only is he making a strong case for MVP, but George’s defense also makes him a DPOY candidate.
George leads the NBA in steals per game with 2.3, with teammate Russell Westbrook right behind him. The Thunder lead the entire league in steals, and rank third in defensive rating.
While George’s team plays great defense as a unit, he often has the task of guarding the best player. As a wing, George faces off against players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, James Harden in the West, and still puts up great numbers.
The 6-foot-9 George trails only Harden in deflections per game, and averages 6.6 defensive rebounds per game. Without George’s defensive play, the Thunder would not be the top-three team in the Western Conference that they have become.
The Indiana Pacers currently have the second-best defensive ranking in the NBA, behind only Milwaukee. The Pacers are the best at keeping their opponents from scoring, leading the league in opponents’ points per game at 102.8.
Center Myles Turner is a huge part of the team’s defensive success. Turner leads the NBA in blocks with 2.75 per game, and records .8 steals per game . Out of his seven-rebound per game average, 5.2 of them are defensive.
Turner plays great defense, all while scoring 13.5 points per game for Indiana. The Pacers are looking to close the gap with the Bucks for the Central Division title, and Turner’s defense is key in that.
At 22-years-old, Turner still has plenty of playing ahead of him. If he doesn’t win DPOY this year, he certainly can before his career is over.
The Greek Freak has led the Bucks to the best record in the entire NBA. A huge part of the equation has been strong defense, of which he is the anchor.
Antetokounmpo, like George, plays tremendous defense as well as offense, putting him as one of the MVP frontrunners. This season he is averaging 1.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, as well as 10.2 defensive rebounds. This work on defense compliments his 27 points and six assists per game.
The Bucks, while they have an improved roster, will go as far as Antetokounmpo takes them. He could very well end the season with the DPOY trophy if he continues this level of play.