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Who is your midseason Defensive Player of the Year?
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Steve Aschburner: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. It’s largely a matter of taste — great big-man defense or great on-ball defense — so if you prefer the latter, then someone like Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons might be the choice here. But a rim protector and helper like Gobert can make his four teammates on the floor at any given time better defensively, too. Gives them confidence, assures them that if they get beat, their man still faces a huge obstacle to scoring, empowers them to dart into passing lanes, you name it. Gobert is deserving of his third DPOY award in four years.
Shaun Powell: I’m not suffering from Giannis Fatigue. The reigning DPOY is once again menacing players tall and small and hey, Giannis Antetokounmpo should be the front-runner on his tenacious block of Ivica Zubac’s two-handed dunk attempt the other day. Obviously there are others worthy of mention: Ben Simmons of course, although he may not be the best defender on his own team (Embiid); Dejounte Murray; Jrue Holiday; Draymond Green.
John Schuhmann: Rudy Gobert. The two-time DPOY has his flaws. He’s not the most mobile big and he wasn’t able to stop Joel Embiid in a head-to-head matchup on Wednesday. But the league’s fourth-ranked defense (there’s only a 0.1 point-per-100-possession difference between the defenses ranked 2-4) is built entirely around Gobert’s ability to protect the rim. The Jazz have a pretty good defender (Derrick Favors) backing him up, and, as the starter, Gobert is generally defending against better offensive players. But the Jazz have allowed 6.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Gobert on the floor (103.8) than they have with him off the floor (110.3). Despite the mobility issues, he continues to rank among the league’s best isolation defenders.
Michael C. Wright: Watching the New Orleans Pelicans wreck the Utah Jazz for 74 points in the paint on March 1 initially presented some second thoughts about this choice, but Rudy Gobert is the frontrunner to win his third Kia Defensive Player of the Year Award. Backcourt players and wings may be sexier picks here because they’re often called upon to guard an opponent’s top scorer, but you can’t deny how important Gobert is to everything Utah does on that end of the floor. His presence inside and help defense shuts down whole offenses, and that’s a major factor in Utah’s win-loss record, not to mention the fact the Jazz rank near the top of the league in several defensive categories.