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Cheap Seats: Best NBA Coaching Move

There have already been a number of coaching moves in the NBA this offseason. Which move was the best?

Basketball Insiders

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In this week’s Cheap Seats, the Basketball Insiders interns Jesse Blancarte, John Zitzler and Cody Taylor debate the best coaching move to take place in the NBA in recent weeks.

Pistons Hiring Stan Van Gundy

The Detroit Pistons have been aimless since the 2007-08 season when they went 59-23 and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics. Back then, players like Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace were still in Detroit, and Flip Saunders was the coach.

After that season, the Pistons fired Flip Saunders and team president Joe Dumars traded Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Michael Curry took over as coach, and in the 2008-09 season, the Pistons went 39-43 and lost in the first round of the playoffs after three years of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Since removing Saunders, the Pistons have gone through coaches on what seems like a yearly basis. The list includes Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer. Between the coaching carousel and the confusing roster moves, there has been little stability in Detroit.

The team seems to have acknowledged this and are now moving in a new direction. Dumars was removed, and the team hired Stan Van Gundy as both the new head coach and president of basketball operations.

Van Gundy last coached the Orlando Magic in 2011-12. Van Gundy was let go by the organization after five seasons as the team attempted to appease Dwight Howard and prevent him from leaving, which he eventually did anyway.

Van Gundy brings strong leadership and a no-nonsense approach to Detroit. He does not shy away from telling players or the media his opinions and holds players accountable. While Van Gundy is a proven coach, the Pistons are entrusting him with running the organization on an executive level as well, something which he has no prior experience with. However, Van Gundy is confident that he can turn things around in Detroit.

“I’ve had a lot of time in the last two years so I’ve had a lot of thoughts on the organizational part of it, the basketball operations, how I would want to structure it, how I would put the pieces in place,” Van Gundy said earlier this month, while also acknowledging his limitations and admitting he would only be successful by adding great people to help him.

Van Gundy has already begun that process, hiring Brendan Malone, Bob Beyer and Charles Klask as assistant coaches and Adam Glessner as a team scout. Van Gundy said he brought in these coaches because of their past experience and because they understand the system and style of basketball the team wants to implement.

Looking at Van Gundy’s past, it appears that he will implement an offense that spreads the floor and surrounds a post player with knock down shooters. In Orlando, Van Gundy used Howard as the focal point of the offense. When Howard was doubled-teamed, players like J.J. Redick, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter were ready to swing the ball around the perimeter until someone got a wide open three-pointer. It was an efficient offensive system, often ranking in the top-10 of the league. It also yielded the best production out of Howard, who is finally rounding back into his old form with the Houston Rockets, another team which spreads the floor. Unlike other efficient offensive systems, Orlando’s offense was not about running in transition each opportunity, but moving the ball quickly in search of the best shot available.

Now in Detroit, Van Gundy has a young center in Andre Drummond, who is still very raw, but is the closest thing to a young Howard as there is in the league. Drummond will continue to improve his post-game, and this will provide Van Gundy with a focal point through which to run his spread offense, as he did in Orlando. However, Van Gundy will have to add more shooters in free agency or via trade as the Pistons ranked 26th in three pointers made as a team last year (507), and made only 32.1 percent from beyond the arc (29th in the league). Fortunately, it is harder to come by a talent like Drummond, and even Greg Monroe, than it is perimeter shooters. It probably won’t happen this season, but in the near future, under Van Gundy, the Pistons will likely be a top-10 offensive team with Drummond in the middle, and shooters spreading the court around him. The difference from past years is Van Gundy has a philosophy to build around and can add players that fit his system, which will hopefully avoid signings that make little sense, like Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Josh Smith.

What is often overlooked about Van Gundy is how good of a defensive team he made the Magic each season. In every season under Van Gundy, with the exception of 2011-12, the Magic were a top-10 defensive team, and in 2008-09 they were the number one rated defense in the league. While a lot of the credit for those rankings go to Howard, who won Defensive Player of the Year three years in a row, it was Van Gundy who managed to orchestrate the entire team into a formidable defense. Players like Nelson, Turkoglu, Lewis and Carter were never really lock down players, but they knew how to funnel players to Howard so he could disrupt them on their way to the basket. With more experience and time under Van Gundy, Drummond could one day fill the role Howard once did, perhaps even better than Howard did.

Most importantly, Van Gundy has the type of personality that can grab the attention of his players, and get them to buy in to his system and philosophy. It has been many years of aimless basketball in Detroit, but things are set to turn around behind the strong leadership and philosophy Van Gundy brings with him to the Pistons.

– Jesse Blancarte

Blazers Extending Terry Stotts

The NBA offseason has been relatively busy for coaches thus far. The Detroit Pistons lured Stan Van Gundy out of his home in Central Florida and Steve Kerr opted for the Golden State Warriors over the New York Knicks, which were two of the major moves. But one of best under-the-radar moves happened in Portland with the Trail Blazers opting to extend head coach Terry Stotts’ contract a couple of weeks ago.

The Trail Blazers were a surprise team this year after jumping out to the league’s best record two months into the season in the competitive Western Conference. The Trail Blazers leveled off a bit and finished as the fifth seed, picking up a first-round matchup against the Houston Rockets. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers finished off the Rockets in six games for their first playoff series win since 2000.

The series against the Rockets illustrated how crucial Stotts is to the Trail Blazers. Stotts worked under Rick Carlisle in Dallas in 2008 and was often tasked with getting Dirk Nowitzki open looks and he faced a similar scenario with Aldridge against the Rockets. Aldridge had his way with the Rockets in the first two games of the series, scoring 46 and 43 points, which led Rockets head coach Kevin McHale to change the way Aldridge was guarded. The move somewhat paid off with Aldridge shooting just 8-of-22 from the field and scoring 23 points in the next game. But Stotts created a variety of different pick-and-roll situations where Aldridge could get the ball or create an opportunity for another player to get open. In Game 4, Aldridge turned in an efficient 12-of-23 performance to help the Trail Blazers take a 3-2 series lead.

The Trail Blazers’ decision to keep Stotts around for at least three more years will have a tremendous impact on the team moving forward. The series against the San Antonio Spurs showed the team’s weaknesses, but they are a work in progress and with the extension Stotts will be able to continue to see his work progress in the next couple of seasons.

The Trail Blazers are a young team that returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. One glaring weakness the Trail Blazers had all season was the bench and lack of depth. Stotts and general manager Neil Olshey will have their hands full this summer to improve the Blazers’ dead-last bench production in the league. It’s looking more and more likely that backup point guard Mo Williams will opt out of his contract and he could elect to sign elsewhere, leaving the Trail Blazers with an important position to fill. Olshey will have to decide if their bench help will come from outside or if their answers are already on the roster. Another thing missing from the team’s roster is the lack of veteran leadership, which could have a huge impact on the younger players.

It’s clear that the Blazers will have some work to do before they can compete with teams like the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami HEAT, but a couple of moves here and there and the Trail Blazers could find themselves in a position to compete.

– Cody Taylor

Grizzlies Retaining Dave Joerger

The Memphis Grizzlies surprised many people following the 2012-13 season, when they chose to not to renew the contract of former head coach Lionel Hollins. He had led the team to a franchise record 56 wins and an appearance in the Western Conference Finals before being bounced by the San Antonio Spurs. Despite the Grizzlies’ impressive season, opposing viewpoints between Hollins and upper management, specifically majority owner Robert Pera and former CEO Jason Levien, was the catalyst for his departure.

With Hollins out of the picture, long-time Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger was promoted to fill the team’s vacant head coaching position.

Joerger picked up right where Hollins left off. In his first season as an NBA head coach, the Grizzlies adhered to the same blueprint laid out by Hollins during his tenure. The team’s identity continued to be centered on their stingy defense, controlled pace and strength down low.

The team got off to a slow start under Joerger; the Grizzlies had a record of just 13-17 through 30 games with their new head coach. Wins were tough to come by early on, and the absence of star center Marc Gasol played a major factor in the team’s difficult start. Gasol was sideline for nearly a month and a half, missing a total of 23 games with a knee injury. The slow start surprisingly had Joerger on the hot seat and there were even reports that Pera strongly considered firing Joerger mid-way through his first season. Pera never did pull the trigger on that move and in hindsight that looks to be a wise decision.

The Grizzlies got back on the right track shortly after Gasol returned to from injury on January 14. To no one’s surprise, the return of the former Defensive Player of the Year had a very positive effect. The team finished the season in strong fashion, going 37-15 in their remaining 52 games and ending the year with a record of 50-32 – a remarkable turnaround for a team that appeared bound for the lottery prior to Gasol’s return.

Joerger orchestrated a group that was again one of the premier defensive units in the league. Memphis finished third in points allowed per game, giving up just 94.6 a night, and ranked seventh in defensive rating at 104.6. The numbers were slightly down from the team’s league-best defense in 2012-13, but still more than respectable for the first-year coach. It was that great defense that helped the Grizzlies secure the seventh seed in the tough Western Conference and a first-round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Grizzlies were considerable underdogs going into the series but quickly proved they belonged. Going into Game 6, the Grizzlies held a 3-2 series lead and had a chance to close out the Thunder at home. It was in that Game 6 six when everything that could go wrong seemingly did. Not only did the team get blown out, losing 104-84, but Zach Randolph got into it with Steven Adams and took a swing at his face as the two ran down the court. That incident resulted in Randolph being suspended for Game 7. On top of that, Mike Conley, who had one of the best seasons of his career, suffered a hamstring injury late in Game 6. Conley was able to play in Game 7, but even so the undermanned Grizzlies didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with the Thunder and were eliminated.

After 50 wins and an admirable effort in the playoffs against one of best in the West, you would think Pera would be happy with his new coach. However, that was not the case. Like Hollins the year before, despite a strong season Joerger was again on the hot seat due to Pera’s concern regarding their relationship. The team even allowed Joerger to interview with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves thought highly enough of Joerger following their interview to offer him the head coaching position, which he would later reject. After his visit with the Timberwolves, Joerger met with Pera and it was during that meeting the two seemed to hash out their differences and get on the same page. Joerger described it as a “really good, heart-to-heart, one-on-one conversation.” Shortly after their get-together, the team and Joerger came to terms on a three-year contract extension, ensuring his position with the organization.

It was a tumultuous few weeks following the Grizzlies’ elimination and front office changes. Pera has obviously not been afraid to shake things up and will still have some work to do to fill out the front office, but bringing Joerger back is a step in the right direction. Joerger is young and very familiar with the roster and playing style that has led the team to heights previously unseen. There is no reason why the Grizzlies shouldn’t find themselves in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt again next season under the leadership of Joerger.

– John Zitzler

 

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NBA Daily: Three Trade Targets for the New York Knicks

Drew Maresca explores three restricted free agents-to-be who the Knicks should explore adding via trade before the March 25 trade deadline.

Drew Maresca

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Often the NBA’s biggest flop, the New York Knicks have been significantly better-than-expected to start the 2020-21 season. They’ve won eight of their first 16 games and have surrendered the fewest points per game on the season, placing them squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

That said, they’re not out of the woods yet; with much of the season left to play, the Knicks are devoid of any meaningful offensive weapons. Additionally, the roster features a number of high-quality veterans whose deals are set to expire, the kind of players that contenders like to fill out their rotations with down the stretch, so the roster could look much different at the end of the year than it does now.

So, the Knicks are expected to be active on the trade front, again – no surprise there. But this year could be among the last in which the Knicks are sellers at the deadline. And, while moving some of those veterans for future assets is smart, the Knicks may also want to look at players they can add to bolster that future further.

Of course, New York shouldn’t go all-in for Bradley Beal — they’re not there yet — but there are a number of restricted free agents to-be that would fit both their roster and timeline nicely.

But why give away assets to acquire someone that the team could sign outright in just a few months? It may sound counterintuitive to add a player that’s about to hit free agency, restricted or otherwise, but procuring that player’s Bird rights, an exception in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players (not to mention offer them an extra contract year and bigger raises), can be key to securing a player’s services and building a long-term contender.

Further, the 2021 free agent market isn’t might not live up to expectation, with many presumed free agents already agreed to extensions. So, with that in mind, which players should the Knicks pursue via trade prior to the March 25 trade deadline?

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

Collins’ production is down this season, but that has nothing to do with his ability. A 23-year-old stretch-four who’s shooting 35% on three-point attempts, Collins is big, athletic, can score the ball (16.7 points per game this season) and is a great rebounder (7.5 per game). He also connects on 80% of his free-throw attempts.

Despite those impressive stats, Collins was even more productive last season, averaging 21.6 points on better than 40% three-point shooting and collecting 10.1 rebounds per game.

But the Hawks rotation has become increasingly crowded this year. They added Danilo Gallinari and rookie big man Oneyeka Okongwu, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the frontcourt this offseason, while Collins was already vying for minutes with Clint Capella, who Atlanta added via trade last season. Cam Reddish, a second-year wing who is versatile enough to play some power forward, has also stolen some of Collins’ potential minutes.

So, as much as the Hawks seem to like Collins, he may be a luxury they can do without. He’ll obviously demand a relatively high-priced contract. The fact that Atlanta and Collins failed to reach an extension last summer would also seem to make a reunion less likely; would the Hawks invest so heavily in him now that they have three players at the position signed through at least the 2022-23 season? Further, could they invest even if they wanted to at this point? The Hawks are already committed to more than $100 million next season and, with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter extensions on the horizon, they might be hard-pressed to scrounge for the cash Collins would want in a new deal.

He won’t come cheap, for sure. But, while Julius Randle fans may not love the idea of bringing in his replacement, Collins is simply a better long-term solution.

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

The point guard position has been a sore spot for the Knicks for some time. And while Ball might not be the franchise cornerstone that many hoped he’d become, adding a young player with his upside is clearly a positive move.

Granted, Ball is inherently flawed. His jump shot appeared to be much improved last season and he’s showcased a significantly improved shooting form from years past. But he’s struggled in the new season, shooting only 28% on three-point attempts (down from 37.5% last season). In fact, he’s struggled on the whole on the offensive side of the ball, posting just 11.9 points and 4.4 assists per game (a career-low). He’s also missed some time with knee soreness and moved to more of an off-the-ball role as new head coach Stan Van Gundy has put the ball in the hands of Brandon Ingram more and more.

But, with New York, Ball would step into a significant role immediately. For his career, Ball is a net-positive player and, despite his shooting woes, has posted a positive VORP every year he’s been in the league, save for this season. He’s an above-average defender and, while he does need to ball in his hands, he doesn’t necessarily need to take shots to be effective.

Ball may never become the All-World caliber guard many pegged him as before the 2017 NBA Draft, but he’s better than any other option currently at the Knicks disposal. And, best of all, his trade value is arguably as low as it’s ever been. So, while the Pelicans won’t just give him away, New York should do what they can to acquire him for a reasonable price.

Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets

Last but not least, the surprise from the 2018-19 rookie class. Graham is possibly the hardest sell on this list, but it’s not for a lack of talent.

Graham burst onto the scene last season, posting an impressive sophomore campaign of 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game. Unfortunately, those numbers have taken a drastic dip this season with the arrival of Gordon Hayward and the highly-touted rookie LaMelo Ball in Charlotte. Likewise, Graham’s struggles through the Hornets’ first 10 games limited his opportunities further.

That said, he would appear to be done slumping, as he’s connected on 43% of his attempts from deep in the team’s last two games.

But his efficiency wouldn’t be the main challenge when constructing a Graham trade. Instead, some in New York could be concerned with lack of size – Graham is only 6-foot-1 – and his inability to act as a facilitator at the guard spot.

But Graham is talented, plain and simple. In fact, he’s the exact kind of talent the Knicks should be looking to add right now. More specifically, Graham shot 37.3% on three-point attempts last season; the Knicks rank 21st in three-point percentage so far this season.

The Knicks could ultimately sit tight, swap a few veterans for future draft picks and rest assured that they’ve made enough progress by simply adding coach Tom Thibodeau. But they could and should be aggressive while they can. If New York can add one or more the players mentioned, they may not only build a brighter future, but improve on what the team could do this season. Either way, the Knicks look to be on a good trajectory, but every move they make from here on out can and will affect how quickly they make the leap from laughingstock to respectable contender.

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NBA AM: The Utah Jazz Are Showing Continuity Is Key

Is Utah’s early success an indicator of things to come? Between Donavon Mitchell, a stingy defense and hot three-point shooting, they may just be the real deal.

Ariel Pacheco

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The Utah Jazz are riding high on a seven-game winning streak, hotter, at this point, than all hell. 15 games into the season, the Jazz have been the third-best team in the Western Conference. The key for them has been continuity as they have 11 guys who were on last year’s team. The only addition they made to their rotation this offseason was Derrick Favors, who was with the team for nine seasons before a one-year departure. 

Quinn Snyder is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s showing why this season. The Jazz are currently in 7th in both offensive and defensive rating. Beyond that, there are only three teams who can say they are top 10 in both: The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Often, teams that finish in this select category are historically serious contenders. 

Moreover, the Jazz have been on a shooting tear. Using Gobert’s rolling ability to collapse opposing defenses and find open shooters, Utah’s offense is clicking right now. It’s worked tremendously too, considering the Jazz have attempted and made the most three-pointers of any team this season – and hitting on 40.3 percent as a team. Royce O’Neale, Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Mike Conley are all shooting above 40 percent; while Bojan Bogdanovic is almost there at 37.8.

Basically, the Jazz are just shooting the ball at a ridiculously well rate right now and good ball movement has propelled them. 

Mitchell seems to have taken another jump in his development, although it is subtle, and his growth as a playmaker has benefitted everyone. He’s made teams pay for overhelping, often initiating the ball movement that has led to open looks. He’s also taking fewer mid-range jumpers, converting those attempts into three-pointers. The budding star’s play has been more consistent overall, and he’s been effective out of the pick-and-roll. 

Mike Conley’s improved play this season has been needed – now he’s settled and red-hot. Coming off a disappointing season last year, there were questions as to whether he was declining. While it’s safe to say he’s no longer the guy he was in Memphis, this version of Conley is still a good one. He looks a lot more comfortable in his role and the Jazz are reaping the benefits. In a contract year, Conley is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three.

Jordan Clarkson is a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, fitting in perfectly as the Jazz need his scoring and creation off the bench – even leading the league in such scorers from there. But the Jazz’s bench is more than just Clarkson though, as they’ve gotten strong minutes from Joe Ingles, Georges Niang and Derrick Favors too. They’re a solid group that plays both ends of the court, and all fit in nicely with the starters as well. 

Sorely needed, however, Bojan Bogdanovic’s return has helped tremendously. He gives them another big wing who can shoot and is a scoring threat, and before he got hurt last season, he was averaging 20 PPG. While he isn’t at that level this season, he gives them another reliable scoring option that they badly need. Better, it also allows Ingles to remain on the bench, where his playmaking ability can really thrive.

The Jazz have been playing stylistically a little bit different this year and it has worked. They don’t run often but when they do, they have been potent. Playing at the same pace as last season, Utah is scoring almost five more points per game in transition. Additionally, they are taking six more threes a game too. This all amounts to a 6.1 net rating, which is good for fourth-best in the NBA. 

Lastly, their defense has been impossible for teams to penetrate, inviting opponents to try and finish over Rudy Gobert in the paint. Gobert is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason – his presence alone almost assuredly guarantees his team will be a top 10 defense, which the Jazz are. Favors’ addition has helped stabilize the defense when Gobert sits, which was a major issue last season. Overall, they are just a very disciplined defense that makes teams earn their points, rarely committing cheap fouls.

As it stands today, the Utah Jazz are solidifying themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if the hot shooting is sustainable, but the way they are generating those open looks seems to be. The defense is legit, and if they can remain healthy there’s reason to believe that this team can continue to compete at this level. The Utah starting lineup has outscored opponents by 58 points, but they’ve also had one of the best benches in the league – needless to say, the Jazz’s continuity has been a big part of their early success.

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NBA Daily: Defensive Player of the Year Watch

An inside look-in at the early frontrunners for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Dylan Thayer

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In this fresh edition for Basketball Insiders, there are a few players that should be finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Of course, this prestigious award is given to the contributor who makes the biggest impact on the floor for their team on the defensive side of the ball. In two out of the last three seasons, the award has gone to Rudy Gobert, the rim-protecting center for the Utah Jazz. This past season, Giannis Antetokounmpo won both the DPotY award, as well as Most Valuable Player for a second straight year. Over the past few years, the trending group of finalists for the award has been consistent no matter what the order ends up being. 

Can anyone new break in this year?

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis will always be in the conversation for this award as he has shown throughout his career that he is one of the league’s most ferocious game-changers. Despite never winning the award before, he has made four NBA All-Defensive teams as well as being the NBA’s leader in blocks on three occasions. Davis’s block numbers are a little lower than they usually are at 1.9 blocks per game this season – compared to 2.4 for his career, per Basketball-Reference. This could be due to the addition of Marc Gasol to the Lakers’ frontcourt, a move that has boosted the team’s rim protection. If Davis can raise his numbers again, he should be in consideration for the award purely based on his defensive presence on the court – but he should still finish among the top five in voting.

Myles Turner

The center for the Indiana Pacers – the former potential centerpiece of a Gordon Hayward trade with the Boston Celtics – has continued to show why the team would not package another one of its top players with him. Turner is the current league leader in blocks with 4.2 blocks per game, elevating his game beyond any doubt in 2020-21. He is one of the more underrated rim protectors in basketball, as he has only one top-five finish in the DPotY voting in his career. Turner has also improved his steals metrics this season by averaging 1.5 per game, thus providing a strong defensive presence alongside All-Star frontcourt mate, Domantas Sabonis. Turner should be the frontrunner for the award as things stand right now, but that could change as the season progresses, especially as his injury impacts proceedings.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The reigning two-time MVP should always be in the conversation for the DPotY award as he revolutionizes the defensive side of the floor at an elite level. Currently, Antetokunmpo is averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game to go along with a 106.5 defensive rating, per NBA Advanced Stats. It goes without saying, but Antetokounmpo is a chase-down block artist, always there to contest shots around the rim with his long frame. The 6-foot-11 power forward is one of the league’s top five players due to his exceptional play on both sides of the ball and will always be considered for the DPotY award as long as he in the NBA.  

Kawhi Leonard

The Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar has been arguably the best defensive small forward in the game over the past few years. He first gained major recognition for his defense during the 2014 NBA Finals against the LeBron James-led Miami HEAT. Since then, Leonard has racked up six All-Defensive team nominations to go along with two Defensive Player of the Year awards. This season, Leonard remains an elite defender for the championship-hopeful Clippers with 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game – but his defensive rating is the highest of his ten-year career at 107.8. 

Andre Drummond

The current league leader in rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers is having a monster season thus far. In a contract year, Andre Drummond is currently putting up 19.3 points per game, 15.8 rebounds per game, 1.7 steals per game and 1.6 blocks per game. He also has a very stellar defensive rating of 105.0, a culmination of points allowed per 100 possessions. Drummond is not on a very good team, but that should not take away from the impact he makes when he is on the floor. As a pure rim protector and rebounding machine, he should finish higher up in the voting results than usual, even if his season doesn’t end with Cleveland. 

Honorable Mention: Tobias Harris

The Philadelphia 76ers have started the season on a very high note at 9-5, all despite loads of COVID health and safety protocols preventing their full team from taking the floor. Tobias Harris has played a major part in their early-season success leading the NBA in defensive win shares among starters who have played at least 10 games with 0.184, per NBA Advanced Stats. Along with that, Harris is also second in defensive rating among qualified starters at 99.6. The veteran forward has averaged 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. So if the 76ers want to remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, Harris’ overall play will be a huge reason for that success.

 As the old saying goes, defense wins championships – and these players are the type of players that can change the result of a game every night. Keep an eye on these players as the season moves along as they should garner consideration for both All-Defensive team nominations and the DPotY award.

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