It's truly a shame how overlooked the less glorious side of the ball is in the NBA. Sure, great offense will beat great defense every time, but look back to the 2014 NBA Finals and you'll see that even the best can be slowed down enough to lose the biggest games.
This year, with Andre Roberson out for the season and the enigmatic case of Kawhi Leonard still unresolved, the race for DPOY is wide open. Let's discuss five of the current frontrunners for the honor:
5. Marcus Smart
Bear with us, Al Horford fans-- Marcus Smart is as tenacious a defender that you will find in the NBA. It's odd to think a guard can have such a huge impact on that end of the floor, but the Celtics' already-elite defense is a full five points better with Smart on the court versus when he's not. Throw in his 1.3 steals per game and you have a player who could realistically be DPOY.
4. Paul George
PG13 has been X-rated on the defensive side of the ball this season. Currently leading the NBA in steals per game (2.2), Paul George is also in a distant first when it comes to causing deflections. His individual impact and ability to turn defense into offense should definitely earn him some votes for the award.
3. Draymond Green
It's impossible to have a discussion about DPOY and not include Draymond Green. He's a ferocious rebounder, plays fantastic one-on-one defense, and is one of the smartest help-side defenders in the NBA. While he may be hurt in the award race due to teammate Kevin Durant posting arguably the best defensive season of his career, Green is still the anchor for the defending champs, and ranks among the best in the NBA in blocks and defensive BPM.
2. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid has proven himself a bona-fide superstar in today's NBA. On the defensive end of the floor, Embiid is a fantastic rim-protector and post defender while also being a huge help in pick and roll defense. With Embiid on the court, the Sixers are nearly seven points better than when he's off.
1. Rudy Gobert
It should be no surprise that a man with a 9-foot-10 standing reach is quite possibly the single best rim protector in the NBA. Rudy Gobert is currently averaging 2.3 blocks per game, and the Jazz are a full six points better defensively when the Stifle Tower is on the court. When you watch the way he performs, it's simply unmistakable how valuable he is to the surging Jazz.