Top Five Candidates for Defensive Player of the Year


With less than twenty games left in the regular season, the NBA schedule is slowly winding down and heading towards the playoffs. We’ve been treated to another campaign filled with impressive skill on both sides of the ball.

However, as we approach the remaining games on the calendar, I would like to take a look at the talents on the defensive side of the ball, rather than the offense. Below I have listed the five players, who, in my eyes, have provided the most prolific play from the defensive side of the ball this season. Whether it be rebounds, steals, or blocks, these men can do it all.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Starting off our list is the current odds-on favorite to win the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year Award, and for good reason. The 5th year man out of Michigan State has exploded onto the scene as a fierce defender and one of the best rim protectors in the league.

Jackson currently leads the NBA in blocks per game, with 3.3, which is 0.8 more blocks per game than any other player in the league, block percentage, with 10.7%, and defensive rating, with 103. In addition to this, the Memphis Forward also averages 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Jackson has been nearly impenetrable inside the paint this season, and may have already done enough to snag his first career defensive award.

Nic Claxton

Establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with this season, the Brooklyn Nets’ Nic Claxton has burst onto the scene this season and has established himself as one of the premier defenders in the league. Claxton is a 4th year Center out of Georgia and has become the key foundation in the Nets franchise.

The Nets’ Center currently leads the NBA in total blocks, with 147, and ranks 2nd in blocks per game, with 2.5, and block percentage, with 7.5%. Claxton also averages 9.0 rebounds per game, with 6.6 of them coming from the defensive side, which give him the 10th best rebounding percentage, with 17.4. To top things off, he also averages 0.8 steals per game and ranks 6th in defensive rating, with 108.8.

Brook Lopez

The first of two Miluakee Bucks to land on this list, Brook Lopez has continued his impressive career play down low and has his excellence on the defensive side of the ball. In his 15th NBA season, the 7-foot veteran Center has been the defensive anchor for the Bucks and has helped them earn one of the top three records in the league up to this point in the season.

Among all NBA players, Lopez currently ranks third in blocks per game, with 2.4,and defensive rating, with 107.9, in addition to ranking 4th in block percentage, with 6.5%, and 5th in defensive win shares with 3.21. He also averages 6.6 rebounds and 0.5 steals per game. Although he has enjoyed a successful career up to this point, Lopez is enjoying a resurgence in what has ended up being a career year for the veteran Center.

Bam Adebayo

After making the All-Star game for the second time in his six-year career, it’s easy to attribute Bam Adebayo’s success to his dominance on defense. Although he’s always been known as one of the best rim defenders in the league, the Miami Heat Center has leveled up his game and become one of the NBA’s elite defenders.

Adebayo’s defense isn’t one-dimensional either, as he has built one of the best overall defensive resumes in the league. He ranks 4th in defensive win shares, with 3.28, and 8th in defensive rating, with 109.2. In addition to this, Adebayo also averages 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. This Heat star is likely to lead the way for the rest of his team heading into the playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The second Buck and final spot on this list goes to two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo. This entry really should be no surprise, as Giannis has become one of the best defenders in the league due to his size, strength, and impressive athletic ability. Having already won a Defensive Player Award in 2020, it seems Antetokounmpo is in search of another.

Although he doesn’t boast the best defensive stats in the league, Antetokounmpo leads the league in defensive rating, with 106.4, and defensive rebounds, with 9.7, in addition to ranking second in total rebounds, with 12.0, fifth in rebound percentage, with 19.1%, and 7th in defensive win shares, with 3.07. The 2021 NBA Champ also adds 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals per game, in what could be another MVP season for the Greek.


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