Summer Dreaming: Who will be named Kia Defensive Player of the Year in 2017-18?

There are so many different ways to fully embrace the dog days of summer. One is to fire up the grill and start cooking. Another is to keep that blender full of ice.

The season openers are still more than two months away, but it’s never too early to look ahead. So, here are my Summer Dreaming choices for 2017-18 Kia Defensive Player of the Year.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

After chasing the award fruitlessly through the previous two seasons, Green finally fittingly won the honor in 2017 as the Warriors reclaimed their championship. What better way to put his stamp on the achievement than to go right back out and do it again as the Golden State dynasty rolls on. He’s the Swiss Army knife of defenders who can guard every position on the floor and does it with the same intensity from the opening tip to the final horn.

Yes, he loses his cool at times. But for all the offensive fireworks of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, you can make the argument that Green holds the entire Warriors puzzle together with his defense. He has one speed and it’s high.

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

As if the big man in the middle of the Jazz lineup wasn’t already a growing, looming force, now Gordon Hayward has fled to Boston and the franchise has new plans to build entirely around the 7-foot-2 Frenchman. That will put a bit more pressure on him at the offensive end, but it’s the defense where he continues to get better and excel.

He never met an opponent’s shot he didn’t think he could get and didn’t make some kind of attempt to get there. He finished runner-up go Green for the award last season and, according to statistics, it couldn’t have been a closer race. Last season, they both ranked among the top 20 in the NBA in defensive rating..

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Was it fair to bring him into the league carrying the unfair burden of comparisons to the legendary Bill Russell? Well, maybe if you just keep watching the highlights videos every night. While his offensive array continues to blossom with each passing season, it’s the things he does on defense that take your breath away.

He guards the paint. He cuts off baseline drives. Davis seems to swoop in from out of nowhere to reject even 3-point attempts from the corner. No place on the court is safe from the Pelicans’ ballhawking, shot-blocker. Now with another active big man at his back in the form of fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, Davis could be on the verge of really cutting loose.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

The former two-time winner of the award (2015, ’16) only drops down in the preseason pecking order because his responsibilities at the offensive end keep growing every season. Something has to give, doesn’t it?

With those long arms, monster mitts and an insatiable appetite for sinking his teeth into opponents, Leonard can guard all five positions on the floor and often makes his opponents look helpless in doing it. He doesn’t just look flashy jumping the passing lanes for steals, but does all the rock solid fundamental work.

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

I’ll admit, it’s become a personal crusade. You never find him on any of the stat lists that are supposed to measure these things and you probably won’t find his name very high up in the vote totals, if he gets any at all. He didn’t get voted on to the All-Defensive team last season.

But it’s time we stopped thinking of Thompson as just another one of the Golden State cyborg shooters who can fill up the basket. He actually can stop the other guys from getting them, too. He’s so much more than just a mad bomber. It’s often the work of Thompson that enables Curry to devote most of his energy on the offensive end, because he usually defends the best backcourt or frontcourt player on the other team. Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James? Bring them on.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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