Thus far, this year’s DPOY race has had a slew of standouts on this side of the ball. These have been the three players that have caught my eye.

1. Rudy Gobert

Counting Stats: DRPG: 8.9 (#5), SPG: .64 (#156), BPG: 2.56 (#2)

Advanced Stats: DRPM: 4.96 (#1), DBPM: 4.3 (#4), DWS: 2.7 (#1), DRTG: 97.8 (#1)

Play-Type Stats: DFG%: -7.6% (#4), Rim Protection: 42.7% (#2), Pick-And-Roll D: .58ppp

Hustle Stats: Deflections Per Game: 1.8 (#110), Shot Contests: 14.5 (#3)

Team Stats: DRTG: 101.5 (#2), Points Allowed: 95.1 (#1)

Gobert edges out Green in my eyes due to how he has anchored the defense of a team wrought with injuries–and helped create an identity for the Jazz. He has blanketed DeMarcus Cousins, Whiteside and Howard, among other elite centers.

His 7’9 Wingspan and 9’7 Standing reach has made him the ultimate shot contester and rim protector. Despite, his size he is also quicker and more mobile than traditional rim protectors. His combination of length and quickness has led to his elite ability to stifle the pick-and-roll, what has become the staple of NBA offenses.

2. Draymond Green

Counting Stats: DRPG: 6.9 (#17), SPG: 2.1 (#4), BPG: 1.21 (#23)

Advanced Stats: DRPM: 4.03 (#3), DBPM: 4.7 (#1), DWS: 2.3 (#4), DRTG: 99 (#3)

Play-Type Stats: DFG%: -4.1% (#24), Rim Protection: 44.9% (#6), Pick-And-Roll D: .88ppp

Hustle Stats: Deflections Per Game: 4.3 (#1), Shot Contests: 13.8 (#5)

Team Stats: DRTG: 101.5 (#4), Points Allowed: 105.1 (#16)

Green right now is likely where the smart money is for DPOY. His consecutive second place finishes could lean voters to vote for him if Gobert and Green are equally deserving at the end of the year as a “well he deserves at least one” vote. Name and team recognition in conjunction with more marquee “clutch” plays make him a leading candidate.

Green and Durant have led the Warriors to being one of the best defense in the league again — a feat many did not anticipate when Bogut and Ezeli left. The rim protection that many thought would no longer exist has been assumed by the all-star forward duo.

What is most impressive when I watch Draymond is his defensive awareness and ridiculously quick hands; he always seems to be in good position and makes excellent defensive rotations. His ability to read the defense and quickly react to make a play on the ball is unparalleled.

His quick hands has transitioned into him leading the league in deflections and being top 4 in steals as a Power Forward. He even wrestles the ball away from point guards regularly.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Counting Stats: DRPG: 7.2 (#16), SPG: 1.9 (#6), BPG: 1.97 (#5)

Advanced Stats:DRPM: 3.54 (#5), DBPM: 4.4 (#2), DWS: 2.3 (#6), DRTG: 100.5 (#6)

Play-Type Stats: DFG: -4.5% (#16), Rim Protection: 45.5% (#9), Pick-And-Roll D: .85ppp

Hustle Stats: Deflections Per Game: 3.0 (#22),Shot Contests: 10.9 (#22)

Team Stats: DRTG: 104 (#11), Points Allowed: 102.4 (#7)

Giannis has made an exceptional leap on both sides of the ball this year and is likely the leading Most Improved Player candidate. He has been elite on the defensive side of the ball, but he is still a pretty distant third from the top two candidates. The stats reflect his versatility on the defensive side of the ball. He is on the cusp of being the 4th player ever to average two or more steals and blocks per game.

Giannis continues the trend of having elite length and quickness. Being a top 10 rim protector as a point forward is remarkable. His combination of length, vertical jump, and quickness off his feet makes him a rim protector with no equal at his position besides arguably Durant.

He reminds me of a ball-hawking safety with how rangy he is. Here he gives his best Troy Polamalu impersonation and intercepts Wade and Curry. While he doesn’t rip the ball handler as often as Draymond does, Giannis makes up more ground in the shorter time than almost any player in the league.

To little fault of his own, another factor for why he would be third right now is because his team is not as elite defensively as the Jazz and Warriors, and DPOY generally comes from an elite defensive team, making this at the moment a bit of a two-horse race.

Credit: stephen1745

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