Isaac and Davis NBA's Top Two DPOY Candidates at Season's Quarter Mark?

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – Soon on OrlandoMagic.com, a top 10 ranking of my Defensive Player of the Year candidates will be revealed.

Wednesday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers featured at least two and maybe as many as four of the players that will be on the list.

Right now, the Magic’s Jonathan Isaac and the Lakers’ Anthony Davis – the NBA’s top two shot blockers at the moment – deserve to be No. 1 and No. 2, in either order, on the list. They both have been absolutely extraordinary on that end of the floor.

As he’s done against virtually every opponent he’s been matched up against, Isaac made things awfully difficult for his counterpart, Davis, during Wednesday’s showdown. The six-time NBA All-Star, whom the Lakers acquired in a blockbuster trade from the Pelicans over the summer, was held to 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field.

In case you’re wondering how the Magic’s versatile forward has done defensively against some of the league’s best so far this season when he’s the closest defender, here’s a breakdown per Second Spectrum tracking data:

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1-of-5 shooting

Kristaps Porzingis: 2-of-10 shooting

Danilo Gallinari: 1-of-5 shooting

Tobias Harris: 1-of-5 shooting

Paul Millsap: 1-of-4 shooting

Perhaps most impressive is what opponents are shooting against the 22-year-old from beyond the arc. Opponents have made just 25 percent of their 3-point attempts when he’s the closest defender, which ranks No. 1 among players who have started in at least 20 games so far.

The other two players from Wednesday’s contest that have earned a possible spot on the list to this point of the year are LeBron James, who is back to being a major defensive force, and Aaron Gordon, a vastly underrated defender the last few years.

Gordon’s opponents, on the season so far, are shooting 44 percent overall and 31 percent from 3-point distance when Orlando’s 6-foot-9, 229-pounder is the closest defender, per data.

Although they fell short against the 22-3 Lakers, the Magic should feel pretty good about their defensive effort. L.A. shot just 42.5 percent from the field, its third worst mark this season, against the injury-riddled Magic. Orlando also had 10 steals, a category it currently ranks ninth in.

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