If the season were to end tomorrow, it’s unclear who would win the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
One player who definitely deserves the trophy is the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah. The sixth-year center is having the best season of his career, averaging 11.2 rebounds (fifth-best in the league), 2.1 blocks (seventh) and 1.3 steals per game.
He also ranks second in defensive win shares with 4.1 and owns the league’s fifth-best defensive rating of 97 (via Basketball-Reference). In case you didn’t know, a defensive rating is an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions.
The Bulls have played well this season despite the absence of superstar Derrick Rose, who’s recovering from knee surgery. Outstanding D from Noah is one of the main reasons the team has stayed relevant rather than look NBA draft lottery-bound.
Noah recorded a season-high six blocks versus the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 21. Here’s a look a one of those six.
Noah erases Earl Clark’s shot, which eventually leads to an easy layup for the Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich at the other end. Defense is great, and it’s even better when it leads to offense.
Also in that Lakers game, Noah swatted Pau Gasol’s three-point attempt toward the end of the first quarter. Obviously a bit embarrassed, Gasol fouled Noah, who was on his way down court to slam it home.
Noah has impressively blocked at least four shots in nine games this season.
Whether it’s guys who can swat shots, jump into passing lanes or prevent scorers from getting an easy shot, the Association is full of first-class defenders. Who will compete with Noah for Defensive Player of the Year?
One legitimate candidate is the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan. Often considered the greatest power forward of all time, Timmy D has never won the award in his illustrious career. Duncan is currently averaging 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 0.8 steals and has served as the anchor of San Antonio’s fantastic defense.
Pau’s little bro is producing 7.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and one steal per contest, helping the Grizzlies emerge as one of the league’s top defensive squads.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers are holding opponents to just 89.6 points per game (tops in the league) and own the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Strong defensive contributions from Roy Hibbert and Paul George have been instrumental in the team’s marvelous season. While Hibbert protects the basket, George plays lockdown D on the perimeter, making life difficult for opposing scorers.
Hibbert’s 2.6 blocks per game rank fourth in the league, and George leads the Association in defensive win shares with 4.7.
The Lakers’ Dwight Howard— who was named Defensive Player of the Year three of the last four years— isn’t in the mix this season. He’s averaging a quality 11.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, but let’s face it, the Lakers just aren’t an elite defensive team.
And reigning DPOY Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks) isn’t playing up to the elite level he was at last season.
The chart below compares Noah’s stats to other candidates for the award.
As you can see, Noah’s numbers indicate that he should be taken seriously for Defensive Player of the Year. Some people would rather vote for Duncan instead of Noah, but sorry Duncan fans, Jo should be considered the front-runner.
Michael Jordan won Defensive Player of the Year back in 1988, and no Bulls player has won the award since. However, look for Noah to finally end the drought this year.