Now that the 2015-’16 season is in its final few games, its time to get down to the nitty gritty, and there’s no better way to do it than writing about the grittiest ballers in the league. In my opinion, these three guys have all been top notch defenders throughout the year and I’m simply giving them their due recognition. So, who out of these three beasts do you see bringing home the hardware come the regular seasons end.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: With an injury early in the season, Utah’s defensive stopper in Rudy Gobert had a rough start to the season. Fortunately, this didn’t stop the “Stifle-Tower” from returning to form upon rejoining the much improved Utah Jazz. Averaging 2 Blocks per game (with a 5.8 block percentage), Gobert is a strong rim protector and has shown the ability to play out on smaller players. Gobert also showed his ability to help the Jazz on more than just the defensive side of the ball, a fact illustrated in his 11 rebounds per game while he also added nine points per game at a 55 % clip. Gobert is also rated 4.8 in Defensive plus/minus, second only to Tim Duncan in the entire NBA. Gobert and his defensive prowess has been one of the major factors that has helped this young Utah team fight their way into the playoff discussion; but will he be rewarded for it?
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are in the midst of a historical season, yet in the hunt for 73 wins and the miraculous play of star guard Steph Curry, Draymond Green and his career year has become a mere sideshow. Although he may not be a well liked player, Green has had a phenomenal year on both sides of the ball; averaging one steal and one block per game, Green also has defensive rating of 99.9, rated 11th in the league. Green is more than efficient in other categories as well, as he is averaging 14 points, nearly ten rebounds, and a team high seven assists for the Dubs; it should not be forgotten that Green has also posted 13 triple-doubles this season, an impressive number. When you think of Golden State, the first thing that comes to mind is Steph Curry and a lot of shooting; although Green has been just as important to the Warriors winning as his ability to be an X-factor on both sides of the ball cannot be overlooked. Yet is all this enough for the reward?
Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat: The Heat are just as their name says, hot, they are playing great basketball and are winning games as they move into the post season. Yet while most of the credit has gone to the excellent play of vets like Dwayne Wade and Luol Deng, or the rising stas in Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, it is Hassan Whiteside who has helped this team remain dominant. Whiteside came onto the scene last year with a natural defensive ability and an aggressive style of play that made the disappointing Heat’s season a bit more enjoyable. Fortunately for the Heat, Whiteside has brought that aggression and natural defensive talent to a juncture this season and the results have been beautiful. Averaging an astonishing 3.7 blocks per game and leading the league in both block percentage (9.8) and defensive rating (94.6), Whiteside is quite possibly the NBA’s best rim protector. Although Whiteside doesn’t just show up on defense, as he grabs 12 boards per game and is averaging a career high 14 points this year. Whiteside has simply been fantastic this year, and it would be a shame if he doesn’t garner a few votes for DPOY.