Your top three candidates for Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year?
Steve Aschburner: This doesn’t necessarily reflect my actual ballot, to be cast in a couple weeks, but right now I’ve got it 1. Rudy Gobert, 2. Paul George and 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo. “The Greek Freak’s” length and activity on defense bolster his Kia MVP case and the Bucks are first in defensive rating. But it really is a group effort for Milwaukee, with center Brook Lopez and pest Eric Bledsoe equally important. George played this season (when healthy) as if challenging himself to be the NBA’s best two-way player. Gobert, though, is the only guy with a chance to repeat, a common trend with this award through the years. His blocked shots have ticked slightly down, but that’s due to awareness and respect, the way base runners don’t test certain outfielders’ rifle arms.
Shaun Powell: First is Kawhi Leonard, top five in steals and capable of guarding three positions, much like the No. 2 choice, Paul George, the current steals leader. Third is Joel Embiid, whose work in the paint ranks him right with Rudy Gobert in terms of interior defense.
John Schuhmann: In alphabetical order… 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the best defender on the league’s best defensive team. He doesn’t have the steal or deflection numbers of Paul George, but players shoot poorly when he’s around and the Bucks’ defense has been at its best when he’s been on the floor. 2. Joel Embiid, who ranks as one of the league’s best rim protectors and makes a huge impact on the Sixers’ defense when he’s on the floor. 3. Rudy Gobert, who hasn’t had quite as good a defensive season as he did last year (when he won the award), but remains the league’s best rim protector in regard to both preventing and altering shots near the basket (the most valuable shots on the floor). And I reserve the right to replace one or two of the above with George and/or Myles Turner two weeks from now.
Sekou Smith: I know this will enrage Draymond Green but I’m going big this year with my candidates for Defensive Player of the Year. I’m starting with Utah’s Rudy Gobert at No. 1, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid at No. 2 and Oklahoma City’s Paul George at No. 3. In a season where offensive performances have been off the charts, it’s hard to pin-point high-level defensive performances that resonate in the same fashion as 50 or 60-point games. But these three guys all rate high on the impact meter defensively and their efforts have been consistent all season.