A few weeks ago, a Golden State of Mind contributor who shall not be named sent us this little chart from Reddit laying out the numbers for the top three 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award: Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert, and Kawhi Leonard.
I immediately told him to get the **** out of here and to take his blasphemous statistics with him.
Ok, not really.
But I put that little vignette out there just to make it clear that I am by no means objective when it comes to Draymond Green winning Defensive Player of the Year this season.
So my big question this year is not whether Draymond Green should win it this year but whether he has done enough this time around to finally persuade voters that he’s worthy of the honor.
Sam Esfandiari offered a reasonable response on Twitter: anchoring the defense for an extended period of time without the help of key defensive contributors like Kevin Durant as well as former Warriors Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli might be enough to demonstrate Green’s individual defensive value.
I think doing it without Bogut (or Festus) and with KD missing time makes it hard to deny how individually special Draymond is https://t.co/kq3nIoZdkM— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) April 4, 2017
And that’s essentially the same argument Kevin Pelton of ESPN made in making his case for Green as DPoY.
First team and Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
For most of the season, I've been expecting to select Gobert for Defensive Player of the Year. But Green won me over with his defense after Kevin Durant was injured. Like everyone else, I expected the Warriors to miss Durant on defense. Instead, they have the league's lowest defensive rating since his injury. Over that span, Golden State has allowed 96.3 points per 100 possessions with Green on the court, 10.6 fewer than league average.
Pelton actually further elaborates on his reasoning for why Green is such a valuable defender in the process of describing why Paul Millsap is “Draymond Lite”.
Second team: Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
Millsap is something of Draymond Lite. Like Green, he offers the athleticism to defend small forwards playing down a position with the strength necessary to battle in the paint. Millsap isn't quite the same rim protector and doesn't force as many steals, but he's become an excellent defender.
To be clear, I’m not actually saying that Rudy Gobert isn’t a good defender -- he most certainly is. At his best, he can dominate the defensive end of the court with his length alone. But again, it’s the versatility that sets Green apart, as Pelton describes.
First team: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Yes, everyone knows Gobert is a great rim protector. In the modern NBA, however, that's not enough to be a great defender. Roy Hibbert has actually held opponents to a similar percentage around the rim this season, but can't get off the bench for the Denver Nuggets (who have some of the NBA's worst rim protection) because of his other limitations.
So while Gobert might not be as versatile as Green defensively -- nobody is -- give him credit for being capable of playing the pick-and-roll multiple ways and contributing even when defending stretch 5s.
Draymond Green might end up being the Warriors’ only representative on the NBA’s All-Defensive teams this season -- Pelton gave Klay Thompson an honorable mention due to poor defensive numbers despite making a positive impact on the floor -- but that sort of underscores his value as a defender. Green carries a massive load as a defender and, somehow, when asked to step up even more in the absence of significant contributors Green gets even better.
To me, Green should’ve won it in AT LEAST one of the two previous years. He offers a combination of versatility and leadership on defense that is simply unparalleled in recent NBA history. When asked to do it without the help of Durant, he just further demonstrated his value.
Draymond Green is the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year. Any other choice is just fake news.