Dime End Of Season Awards: Defensive Player Of The Year

The 2013-14 NBA season has officially ended, so now it’s time for regular season awards before the real season starts on Saturday. There’s a lot of wiggle room before we’re able to name some of the winners, which is why for Dime‘s 2014 NBA Awards we had our writers and contributors provide their top-three choices in an abridged version of what the NBA does with certain media members. Next up, the topsy-turvy roller-coaster ride that was the race for the Defensive Player of Year.

Players were awarded three points for first place, two points for second place and one point for third place. Their point totals determined their placement.

[PREVIOUSLY: Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year]

Again, there was a selection that made our top three, which didn’t really mesh well with who we thought should have made it. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just that there was a difference of opinion.


3. Anthony Davis
Coming out of Kentucky two autumn’s ago, we thought The Brow might be a game-changer on the defensive end of the floor. Turns out defense is really hard at the NBA level. So hard in fact, we’re not really sure Davis should have squeezed into the top three here, but that’s what our voters thought. The Pelicans gave up 107.1 points every 100 possessions when Davis was on the court. When he was off, it was 107.6. That’s not much of a difference and either figure is near the league’s basement. That’s not to say the willowy Davis doesn’t affect an opponent’s shot, he does, it’s just that he’s still learning the proper angles in Monty Williams‘ schemes. He can loaf a bit on pick-and-rolls, not getting in front of a ball handler as he comes around the screen, or missing switches altogether. Again, Ant averaged 2.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game during his sophomore season, and opponents shot 48.9 percent at the rim against him, per SportVU data. No. 4 on our voter’s list was worse, and he didn’t have to deal with nearly as many attempts as Davis. But Davis’ on/off numbers can be attributed to slack perimeter D and a team that was just too new to really get the most out of their monster defensive presence. We still don’t think he’s No. 3, but there are worse guys that could have been voted into this slot.

2. Roy Hibbert
Roy made it perfectly clear he was gunning for the DPOY award the moment the season started. His use of the NBA’s “verticality” rule was such a hot topic, we’re halfway convinced it’s the reason the NBA now releases their referee points of emphasis to the public. That being said, it was a tough final chapter to Hibbert’s 2013-14 DPOY campaign. Not only because No. 1 on our list proved to be the linchpin on an overachieving, undermanned Bulls squad, but because Hibbert’s presence is truly awe-inspiring when you look at how hard it is for opponents to score when he’s on the court.

The Pacers led the league in defense, allowing just 96.7 points per 100 possessions. With Hibbert on the court, that number shrinks even more to 95.9. When he’s off the court, it blows up (though not much) to 98. But it’s the way Hibbert affects players in the paint that makes him 1A in the DPOY discussion. Among players who appeared in at least 60 games, and averaged over 25 minutes a night, Hibbert kept opponent’s to the lowest shooting percentage at the rim (41.4) in the whole league. If it weren’t for the long-haired renaissance man in front of him, Hibbert’s mastery of the restricted area would net him his first DPOY award.

1. Joakim Noah
On the surface, Noah’s 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game don’t blow you away. Neither does his shooting stroke, but both have proven effective, and in the former’s case, there probably isn’t a more technically perfect defender than Noah in the whole league. Part of this is Tom Thibodeau‘s doing. He’s put the former Gator in the perfect system to take advantage of his quick feet and long arms. Noah plays the pick-and-roll correctly 100 percent of the time. Even a stud defender like last season’s DPOY, Marc Gasol, can get tripped up on a high screen and roll. But Noah is so fast and so disciplined, guards just aren’t getting open looks at the rim no matter how fast they buzz past their screen man’s shoulder. Noah’s defensive numbers don’t account for his mastery at audibly keeping his teammates on a string — similar to Gasol last season — and it’s helped the Bulls achieve near perfection in their half-court defense. Noah’s also playing nearly 6 minutes more a night than Hibbert, and his presence on the court is a lot bigger deal than Roy’s has been for Indy this season.

While Noah’s season-long on/off numbers don’t blow you away very much, since Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland, Chicago gives up 103.4 points per 100 possessions when Noah sits and only 95.2 when he’s on the court. That’s neglecting to mention how integral Joakim is to their offense. The Bulls are scoring 103.4 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court and just 95.7 when he’s off. Unlike Hibbert, Noah also rebounds, averaging 11.2 per game this season, which is No. 6 in the league. He’s top-5 in offensive rebounds on the season and top-10 in defensive rebounds, via basketball-reference.com. He challenges every shot than gobbles rebounds like it’s life or death.

Joakim Noah is the 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year. Our voters got this one right.

Here’s how the voting turned out:

1) Joakim Noah 1st place (6), 2nd place (1), 3rd place (0) = 20
2) Roy Hibbert 1st place (0), 2nd place (6), 3rd place (0) = 12
3) Anthony Davis 1st place (0) 2nd place (1), 3rd place (5) = 7
4) DeAndre Jordan 1st place (1), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (1) = 4
5) Paul George 1st place (1), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (0) = 3
6) Tim Duncan 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (1) = 1
7) Serge Ibaka 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (1) = 1

(H/T Dime contributor Matthew Hochberg for vote counting and doing research)

Who will win the Defensive Player of the Year? Who should win?

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