Starting Five: DPOY

Each week NBA Australia‘s stable of experts - which includes Downtown’s Liam Santamaria and Michael Collins - takes a close look at the big issues in the NBA.

As we get to the pointy end of the regular season, the Starting Five decided to assess some of the candidates who may have been forgotten in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion.


Liam Santamaria: Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors guard/forward/centre Draymond Green may not be a left-field candidate for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no mistake, he’s the man to whom the trophy should be presented.

While Green is certainly an excellent rim protector for his size (he is the only player shorter than 6-9 ranking among the league’s top-10 in terms of opponents field-goal percentage at the rim), he is not a top-10 shot blocker. Nor is he a top-10 defensive rebounder or thief.

What he is, however, is the most versatile and best defender on the league’s most efficient defensive team; a team that includes fellow DPOY candidate Andrew Bogut.

Like Joakim Noah last year, Green leads the league in both individual defensive rating (96.7) and defensive win shares (4.2), per Basketball-Reference. 

He provides the Warriors with perhaps the most valuable defensive asset in all of basketball; someone who can legitimately guard all five positions.

With Bogut on the floor, Green becomes a lock-down stopper on the wings or on the opposing power forward.

But when the Dubs play small-ballas Steve Kerr is becoming increasingly fond of doing—Green plays the five; using his exceptional strength and competitive will to muscle opposing pivots out of the paint.

This is where Green’s outstanding versatility is most obviously on display, as he seamlessly switches the pick-and-roll to disrupt the league’s best point guards. He has the quickness to stay in front of even the most fleet of foot NBA playmakers, without having to sag off and give up the jump shot.

Unsurprisingly, when the Warriors play small-ball—maximising Green’s defensive versatility—their efficiency at that end of the floor goes through the roof.

“When Draymond is at the five, our defensive rating is just off the charts,” Coach Kerr told reporters last week.

“I think Draymond has a lot of Dennis Rodman in him,” Kerr added.

“He defies positions, he guards anybody, he’s quick enough to stay in front of point guards; he’s big and strong and tough at the rim and rebounds like crazy.”

The Warriors have the best record in the league and are currently favourites to win it all this season.

Championship or not, know this: Draymond Green is going to get paid this summer! And I mean properly paid.

And when it happens, he will likely have a brand new DPOY Award tucked under his arm and may become the first player ever to sign a max deal primarily on the basis of his defensive contributions.



Michael Collins: Tim Duncan

When the San Antonio Spurs clinched the 2014 NBA Championship, Tim Duncan was able to right a wrong that splintered every Spurs fan’s pursuit of happiness for nearly 12 months.

So perhaps, in turn, it’s time for us to also right a wrong, which is more perverse than any missed game-tying bunny or Ray Allen miracle shot : Tim Duncan never winning the Defensive Player of the Year.

Yes, the DPOY has escaped the clutches of a legendary defensive general… until now! The All-Star Weekend is often the haven for lifetime achievement awards, while the end of season awards shed a more honest depiction of who put in the work for that specific season.

Duncan’s DPOY candidacy is definitely not born from nostalgia.

With the defending champs’ two other key defenders Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter missing chunks of time this season, the Big Fundamental has been the one constant in a top-five NBA defence.

As always, Timmy’s true impact can’t be measured in raw numbers, although he does rank in the top-10 for blocks.

He doesn’t merely swat balls, but rather, directs the ball down to his point guard’s feet for swift counterattacks. Every movement is deliberate and rarely wasted.

Of course, challenging shots without fouling is a staple to any great team defence, and Duncan continues to lead the way in this regard (averages fewer than three fouls per 36 minutes).

Okay, fine, he’s sometimes a stroke late rotating from weak side, but hell, grey hair will do that to you.

Sure, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, Serge Ibaka and Draymond Green all deserve serious consideration. There really isn’t a wrong answer here.

On the other hand, we’re probably never going to see another 38-year-old dominate on defence with the same guile ever again.

This is a legendary career taking another unprecedented step.


To read which other players the #StartingFive think deserve DPOY consideration, click here.


This article first appeared on NBA Australia.


Article written by

I like to think that I bring the all-important little man’s perspective to the Downtown crew. The rim may be 10-feet high folks but the court, itself, is at ground level. My one season playing ball on the national scene was back in 2001/02, when I played the vital role of 4th-string PG as a member of the Victoria Titans. Go back and watch the tapes, I’m confident that only Patty Mills outranks me worldwide as an end-of-the-bench towel-waver. This experience, however, gives me the kind of an insight into pro hoops that can only be gained by spending time ‘behind the curtain’. These days I spend most of my spare time squeezing every last cent out of my League Pass subscription. And when I’m not playing, watching, writing about or podcasting about basketball, you’ll find me soundly outplaying all-comers at the fantasy version of the game. Safe to say that if I had a tatoo it would say ‘mum’. But if I had two tatoos, the second one would definitely be of a basketball. Follow me on twitter: @liam_santa

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