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Is Giannis the Frontrunner for DPOY?

While only one man can win the award, there are four players who have some case for DPOY this season. In no particular order, those players are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Myles Turner and Paul George. Each has displayed tremendous individual and team defense this year, but how do they stack up by category?

Team Defense

By defensive rating, the top four teams (in order) in the league are the Bucks, Jazz, Pacers and Thunder. Non-coincidentally, each candidate plays for one of these teams. Their team’s defensive rating with them on the court and off the court is listed below, as well as the differential between the two.

Save for Gobert, each team’s defense suffers when their top defender takes a rest. Of the four, George’s impact is the most definitive. With George on the court, OKC’s DRTG would rank first in the NBA, but when he steps off, they drop to seventh. Comparatively, when Giannis, Gobert and Turner step off, their defenses go from first place, to a slightly worse first place. Point here for Paul George based on his influence over the Thunder defense as compared to his opponents.

Individual Defense

This table looks at a variety of advanced defensive metrics, as well as some good old counting stats to determine who is most deserving of DPOY.

In terms of categories, Giannis takes four, Gobert wins three, while Turner and George snag one apiece. When looking at advanced metrics, Giannis clearly beats out the other three. His defensive FG% of 40.2% is the lowest in the entire NBA, and he lowers his opponent’s field goal percentage by 6.6% when they are guarded by him. In essence, players see huge hits to their efficiency and struggle tremendously to put the ball in the basket when Antetokounmpo puts the clamps on them.

While Gobert slightly edges out Giannis in terms of defensive win shares, the difference is negligible and the two tie for defensive box plus/minus.

Turner leads all four with 196 blocks on the year, however, Gobert does edge him out in terms of blocks per game. George leads all four with 163 steals, and he also leads the NBA in steals per game with 2.2. While Turner has secured the largest combination of steals and blocks in total, Gobert averages the most steals and blocks per game with a whopping 3.5.

The Verdict

Overall it seems like Giannis is the front runner for the award, however, voters couldn’t go wrong with Gobert either. Turner and George are both solid defenders, however, neither has a definitive case over the latter two.

For Gobert, his argument is his slight lead in defensive win shares, his league-leading 2.7 blocks per game, and his impressive 3.5 blocks and steals per game. He also anchors a Jazz defense that ranks second in defensive rating. His case might be hard to sell given that the Bucks rank first, however, he has the legacy argument going for him since he won last season.

For Giannis, his argument is that he leads in most advanced defensive metrics, and his on/off differential is significant, even if it is less than that of George. Even though his block totals are low, this arguably makes his defensive performance more impressive. He holds opponents to the lowest field goal percentage of anyone in the league, and he does it by contesting rather than flat out blocking shots.


Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and ESPN

Featured image courtesy of Morry Gash/Associated Press

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