With nbadraft.net down for a server update or something to that effect, I figure I'd do another blog post to keep my mind off my U16s grand final game tomorrow morning. Let's hope we can come up big. But this isn't about my personal life, it's about the NBA.
One thing I learned about the NBA in this off-season is that man-to-man defense, when played well enough, is simply the best in basketball. Teams in the world cup tried all sorts of zones and other nonsense to get ahead, but the US team stuck to the basics and relied on grit and intensity to get the job done. So here are my nominations for DPoY...
Honourable mentions; Lebron James, Rajon Rondo
5. Andre Iguodala: A lot of this comes down to Evan Turner's performance; if he and the rest of the 'Sixers can get back on track then Iggy can be the savage, lock-down defender he was in the FIBA world cup. Keeping in mind he was often playing against 4s and will be guarding 2s and 3s in the NBA he could have a strong year and be a bit of a wildcard. However, as with most wildcards, it is going to need a whole bunch of things going right.
4. Gerald Wallace: How was it that a team which was swept in the first round of the playoffs had such a good record against the number one ranked team in the League last season? Well, his name is Crash, and he did a number of Lebron and the Cavs every time they played. This man is all hustle, and has improved each year under Larry Brown. It wasn't his skill (though considerable) that earned him an All-Star nomination, but his grit and intensity; which just so happens to be the most important thing on the defensive end. A lot of people have Charlotte dropping out, but a fresh commitment from Larry Brown should see the stocks of both the Bobcats and Gerald Wallace rise.
3. Eric Gordon: Okay, before you all close the window and never read the blog again, hear me out; I have never seen such a dominant defensive effort by a guard as I did with Eric Gordon in the world cup. Those of you who followed Team USAs efforts know the one I'm talking about. I can't remember what happened to set him off, but Gordon got pissed, and he absolutely terrorised his opponent for almost the entire shot clock, I'm surprised they didn't have to stop the play to clean up the puddle forming at the dude's feet. There were hands everywhere, and Gordon finished with an emphatic rejection to gain possession for the US again. Now, I know it was only one play and all, but think about the Clippers' situation and Gordon's role on the team; Kaman is coming off an All-Star season, some dude name Blake Griffin is going to be back in uniform and Baron Davis is still kicking around. Gordon is more well known for his shooting, but he showing how dedicated he was to defense, and how impressive he can be on that end of the floor. If he learns from this experience and applies himself as a defensive ace he might just be in with a shot.
2. Josh Smith: Okay, athleticism is all well and good in transition or on a dunk attempt, but when used correctly, it can make one heck of a defender. Lebron might be the better player (duh), but Smith is every bit the athlete he is. He was monstrous this past season, and with so many people writing off his Hawks after they failed to improve in the off-season expect him to play with a chip on his shoulder. Now that he's done hocking up 3s, he'll hopefully get the crowd going with blocked shots. If anyone has a legitimate shot at knocking Howard off the pedestal it is Smith. That said...
1. Dwight Howard: It ain't happening this season. As the two time defending champ, barring a major injury I can't see Howard getting any less athletic or losing his defensive instincts. While he has a very limited offensive skillset and shoots free-throws about as well as the last "Superman", he is considered one of the best players in the League, which gives hope to incoming offensively-challenged shot-blockers like Hassan Whiteside.
So there you have my predictions, again they might be a little biased, but I feel there is a strong case for each of these candidates. That said, this is one of the hardest awards to narrow down to 5-7; I could easily have given 10 or more honourable mentions, there are that many ace defenders who could step up. Ah well, what are you gonna do?