Andrei Kirilenko - Utah Jazz
Defensive Player of the Year

His 3.19 bpg currently rank second in the NBA ... Ranks 19th with 1.48 steals per game ... Leads the league with 28 games of four or more blocks and has blocked five shots or more 15 times ... Recorded a career-high and NBA season-high 10 blocks on 3/27 vs. SAC as part of his second career triple-double (15 points and 14 boards) ... Posted a 5x5 game vs. LAL on 1/3, with 14 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, seven blocks and six steals ... He could become just the fourth player in NBA history to average 15-plus points, 8-plus rebounds, 4-plus assists and 3-plus blocks in a single season ... Jazz are 36-27 when he starts, 4-14 when he doesn't (2-10 if he doesn't play)

Our take:
People call him "AK-47" : Andrei Kirilenko's initials plus his uni number equals AK-47. It's a simply perfect nickname for the Russian forward who plies his trade for the Utah Jazz.

And while some would say Kirilenko is Utah's best defensive weapon, I prefer to think of him as even more perfect machine: a shark. Kirilenko is a predator on defense, treating opponents like chum, gliding through the paint looking for shots to swat and passes to pilfer. He's quick, agile and above all smart, playing the angles like another type of shark: a pool shark.

Many an opponent thinks he has a clear path, only to have the 6-9 Kirilenko, seemingly out of nowhere, come in a swat it away, tearing a perfectly executed play to shreds. He's been blocking shots to the tune of 3.19 times per game, second best in the NBA, as well as averaging 1.48 steals per game. Those numbers are down slightly from last year (3.32 bpg, 1.63 spg in 41 games), but AK-47 can still lay claim to being one of the best help defenders in the NBA.
-- Rob Peterson

From the media:
We thought about it, and we couldn't come up with anyone else in the League we'd least want have hawking us all over the court. Check the last few weeks of AK-47's resume and you'll see guys like ‘Melo (7-for-19) and Ron Artest (2-for-12) would probably agree. Plus he's a beast in the team defense concept, making up for a lot of his squad's deficiencies with his weak side help skills.
-- Dime Magazine

A fan's take:
Who is the most feared defender in the association? What player can single handidly change the outcome of a game just on the defensive side of the floor? What player do coaches gameplan around (Nate McMillan admited to this last week) so he won't be able to change the game defensively and then he still gets seven blocks? Who is the real candidate for the coveted Quadruple Double (Sorry Lebron)? There is only one player who fits this description, Andrei Kirilenko. We all know he is the most versatile player in the league, but he is hands down the best defender out there. Andrei Kirilenko is the winner my friends.
-- Matt - Salt Lake City, Utah

The Numbers:
69 37.7 15.3 8.0 4.3 1.48 3.19 .460 .308 .699

Defensive Player of the Year - The Candidates:
Bruce Bowen - San Antonio Spurs
Marcus Camby - Denver Nuggets
Andrei Kirilenko - Utah Jazz
Shawn Marion - Phoenix Suns
Ben Wallace - Detroit Pistons
Gerald Wallace - Charlotte Bobcats

Others worth consideration: Ron Artest, Elton Brand, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Brevin Knight

Most Improved Player
Rookie of the Year
Sixth Man Award
Coach of the Year
Most Valuable Player

Kent Horner/NBAE/Getty Images