Defensive Player of the Year: Past Five Winners
In the NBA, the Defensive Player of the Year award is one that has gone overlooked in recent memory. In a now heavily offence-driven league, the defensive side of the floor is certainly overshadowed. However, there are still some elite defenders in the NBA who provide great value to their respective teams.
As a result, this award is still highly coveted in the league. With this in mind, we are going to be taking a look back at the past five Defensive Players of the Year and reminisce about their best defensive moments. Keep in mind that some players have won the award consecutive seasons in a row, so this list may go back further than the immediate five years.
The Past Five Defensive Players of the Year
While Rudy Gobert is now the NBA’s face of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is still the reigning Defensive Player of the Year for a reason.
Last season, his second as DPOY, he came away with 2.3 blocks, 9.0 defensive rebounds, and a defensive rating of 100. Gobert also averaged a block percentage of 5.8 to go along with a defensive win share of 5.7.
The previous year, the Stifle Tower blocked 2.3 shots per game to pair with 7.8 defensive boards. The ironic fact is that this was not his career-high in blocks per game for his career (that was 2.6), but he was still recognized for his defensive prowess. In the 2018 season, Gobert came away with a block percentage of 6.0 and a defensive win share of 3.9. Gobert’s defense was invaluable for the Utah Jazz and is a big reason they have maintained a place in the Western Conference playoff picture for the past few seasons.
Many feel that Draymond Green was snubbed of the award the previous year, but he finally earned his DPOY in the 2016-17 season. Say what you want to say about Green, but he knows how to do all the intangibles to make the well-oiled Golden State Warriors machine operate. A big part of what he does so well is on the defensive end of the floor. He is versatile enough to guard any position and is extremely scrappy. Not to mention, Green is an irritant that can easily frustrate opponents.
During his DPOY season, he tallied 1.4 blocks per game and won the steals title, averaging 2.0 cookies per contest. On top of this, Dray also came away with a defensive rating of 99 and a defensive win share of 5.4. His 2016-17 campaign is arguably the best of his career and winning the Defensive Player of the Year award helps back up that sentiment.
Like Rudy Gobert, Kawhi Leonard also won the award two seasons in a row. He was riding a ton of momentum going into the 2015-16 season as he was now being regarded as one of the up and coming superstars in the NBA. As a result, the Klaw won the steals title, averaging 2.3 per game to pair with 5.9 defensive rebounds per contest. He also put together a defensive rating of 96, a league-best that season. He was often tasked with guarding the opposition’s best player.
The following season was more of the same, but with Leonard maturing and developing as a star wing. His work on the defensive end would net him another DPOY, though many felt the award should have gone to Draymond Green that season. Leonard averaged a defensive rating of 96 again and came away with 1.8 steals and 5.5 defensive rebounds per game. Kawhi Leonard boasts two DPOY awards and is the poster child of elite defensive wing players because of it.
Remember prime Joakim Noah? Today’s Joakim is lucky to land a contract anywhere. I am talking about the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose‘s partner-in-crime, Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. In his prime, Noah was a player willing to do the dirty work. He was not going to drop 30 points on a defense every night, but he was going to make the right play, grab a ton of rebounds, and play elite defense. As a result, it paired well with Rose and brought the Bulls a lot of success. It also netted him a DPOY, something many NBA peers tend to forget. During that season, Noah would tally 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per contest. The two-time All-Star would also come away with an impressive defensive rating of 96.0. When the Bulls were a contender in the early 2000s, Joakim Noah filled his role terrifically.
Before he was an NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors, Marc Gasol was putting in the dirty work with the Grit-n-Grind Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol made multiple All-Star teams during his tenure in Memphis and helped them form one of the best and most physical frontcourts in the league next to Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies were a fixture in the postseason for a while and Marc Gasol had a big part in that success.
During the 2012-13 season, Gasol found some personal success to go along with his team’s success. He earned his one and only DPOY award that year. Big Spain averaged 1.7 blocks per contest and came away with a career-best defensive rating of 98.0. Not to mention, he averaged a defensive win share of 5.4. Gasol may not be in his prime anymore, but he has been a defensive force for a long time. Marc Gasol is a former Defensive Player of the Year for a reason.