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The 2023 NBA season is winding down, and the final contenders to win Defensive Player of the Year have been recognized. Despite Rudy Gobert opening the season as the favorite to win the award for a fourth time, he's fallen out of the running almost entirely. Brook Lopez is the current favorite to win the prize in 2023.
Odds taken from PointsBet, updated on 28 March 2023.
|Brook Lopez||Milwaukee Bucks||-200|
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||Memphis Grizzlies||+145|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||+3000|
|Bam Adebayo||Miami Heat||+3000|
|Evan Mobley||Cleveland Cavaliers||+4000|
|Anthony Davis||Los Angeles Lakers||+5000|
The NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award is one of the NBA's most prestigious annual awards. It is given to the player with the most defensive impact throughout the regular season. The winner is chosen by a panel of 124 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada.
The 2023 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winner will be the 41st in the award's history. They will join the likes of Dikembe Mutombo, Ben Wallace, and Rudy Gobert as some of league history's greatest-ever defenders.
Individual ability is paramount to a player's chances at the award. Excellent individual defense is always the measure for the award winner. Some of the season's block-and-steal leaders are certain to be in contention for the prize.
Let's answer some of the most critical questions about the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award!
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No player has adjusted their game to fit the modern NBA more than Brook Lopez. Entering the league as a defense-averse post scorer, Lopez is now one of the NBA's premiere three-and-D threats and the best at the center position.
Lopez is averaging a career-high in blocks per game with 2.5 per contest while also manning the league's second-best defense. Holding teams to just 45.1% from the field and 51.0% from two-point range, Lopez's presence in the paint is the lead deterrent for teams trying to take on the Milwaukee Bucks.
If Lopez wins Defensive Player of the Year, he would be tied with Dikembe Mutombo as the oldest player to receive the prize at 34. The top rim-protector for one of the league's best defensive teams, Lopez winning Defensive Player of the Year would be a fitting reward for one of the league's mainstay players.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has taken a massive step in his young career. Earning his first All-Star nod while leading the league in blocks per game, Jackson Jr. is putting up numbers representative of a Defensive Player of the Year winner.
The 23-year-old Memphis Grizzlies big man is leading the NBA in blocks per game, while his Memphis Grizzlies own the league's third-best defense. Despite missing 17 games this season, Jackson Jr.'s presence for the Memphis Grizzlies has defined their success.
If Jackson Jr. wins Defensive Player of the Year, he'll be among the three youngest players to win the award. He's neck-and-neck with Lopez for Defensive Player of the Year to close the season, and his chances can only improve as his current form continues to impress.
Bam Adebayo is one of the league's most capable defensive big men and has forced his way into the running for Defensive Player of the Year. An all-around threat on both sides of the ball, Adebayo is the anchor for one of the NBA's best defensive teams.
Adebayo leads a Miami Heat team that ranks eighth in the NBA in defensive rating. While the quality of Adebayo's defense isn't wholly represented on the stat sheet, his team's quality directly results from his contributions. The Heat's place in the standings may hurt Adebayo's chances at winning the award, but he is more than worthy of an All-Defense selection.
One of the league's premiere offensive threats, Antetokounmpo's impact on the defensive side of the ball can be easily overlooked. 6-11 and able to guard players one through five, Antetokounmpo's defensive impact is felt beyond the stat sheet. While he likely won't win the ultimate prize, Antetokounpmo is sure to make the league's All-Defensive team.
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The winner of the 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award was Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics. It was just the second time a Celtics player won the award and the first time in almost 30 years that a backcourt player was named the winner.
Smart averaged 12.1 points, 5.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game in his award-winning campaign. He was crucial to the Celtics' success, usually guarding his opposition's most talented offensive player.
Smart's win made him the second-ever points guard to win the award. The first is NBA legend, Gary Payton.
Ten players have been to win Defensive Player of the Year twice or more. Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace lead the pack with four victories, but there are many more players to recognize.
Players to win Defensive Player of the Year multiple times:
The NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award winner doesn’t receive a prize beyond the trophy. In terms of cash incentives or bonuses, there are none.
It is written in many players’ team contracts that they receive a bonus upon receiving the award, but that is subject to the terms of the team agreement and not the NBA organization.
In a less direct sense, the Defensive Player of the Year in the current climate would be awarded much more exposure, the opportunity for endorsements, and nationally broadcasted matches for his team. The most accurate prize for the Defensive Player of the Year is that their name is written in history as one of the greatest ever to play.
No, fans of the NBA do not have a say in who will be awarded Defensive Player of the Year. Unlike All-Star voting, the Defensive Player of the Year is voted upon by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters across the United States and Canada.
Fan votes are reserved for the NBA All-Star Game, where they make up 50% of the total. Votes by current NBA players and a panel of media members account for 25% each.
The voting process for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year is as follows: Media members are allowed to award a player of their choice a “vote” ranked from first place, worth ten points, to third place, worth one point. The player with the highest points total wins the award.
There has never been a unanimous winner for Defensive Player of the Year. The closest a player has come was Ben Wallace in 2002. The undersized Detroit Pistons center received 116 out of 120 votes for the award.
Wallace averaged 7.6 points, 13.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 3.5 blocks in his award-winning season. It was just one of his four Defensive Player of the Year-worthy years.
The NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award is usually announced after the conclusion of the NBA regular season and the Play-In Tournament. The team of the winning player tends to reveal the news publicly during the NBA Playoffs.
Before its cancellation, the prize would have been announced at the NBA Awards ceremony. Last year, the award news was reported on a broadcast of Inside the NBA.
The first-ever winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award was shooting guard Sidney Moncrief of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member was equally a force on the offensive and defensive end of the court.
In his Defensive Player of the Year winning season, which also happened to be his second All-Star season, Moncrief averaged 22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and just 2.4 fouls in 35.7 minutes per game.
Impressively, his first award-winning season was just a precursor to winning Defensive Player of the Year in consecutive years. He is genuinely one of the NBA's greatest players!
As the game has evolved, it's clear that many teams use the center position to define their defensive game plan. The center position has dominated the Defensive Player of the Year award with 25 wins. The other four roles on the court have won just 15 Defensive Player of the Year awards combined.
Defensive Player of the Year Wins by Position:
A rookie has never won the Defensive Player of the Year award. The closest a rookie has ever come to winning the award was Manute Bol in 1985-86. He finished second in voting for defensive player of the year, falling just five votes short of eventual winner Alvin Robertson.
In Bol's rookie season with the Washington Bullets, he posted 3.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 blocks per game. He led the league in blocks per game, even beating out multi-time winners Mark Eaton and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The youngest-ever winner of Defensive Player of the Year was 23 years old. Three different players have won the award at just 23:
Dikembe Mutombo was the oldest Defensive Player of the Year Award winner after the 2000-01 NBA season. At 34 years old, a season split between the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers did not deter Mutombo's defensive efforts.
The Detroit Pistons have had the most Defensive Players of the Year throughout the award's history. With six wins, four coming from Ben Wallace alone, the Pistons stand above the rest. The other Piston to win Defensive Player of the Year was fellow Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman.
Twelve different NBA franchises have failed to produce an NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner:
That isn't to say these teams haven't been fantastic defensive clubs throughout their storied history. They just have yet to have that one player that rose above the rest through a whole NBA regular season.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
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