It’s not unusual for Satch Sullinger to travel to Boston to watch his son play for the Celtics. Over the past two seasons he has become a familiar face around TD Garden, often coming to town for long home stands at a time. When Satch decided to visit Jared in late January, the 21-year-old thought his dad was coming to check in on him. Turns out Satch was traveling to put him in check.
Satch didn’t like what he had been seeing during games. The attitude, the expressions, they were not up to the standard he had set for his children when it comes to professionalism. Just weeks after leaving from a month-long stay, he returned to Massachusetts to let his displeasure be known.
“He came up and cussed me out,” Jared Sullinger told Basketball Insiders of his father. “I was thinking he had to tell me something or he wanted me to talk about how everything was going because he seemed worried about me. But instead the conversation just started off – well, his conversation started off – and I was just saying, ‘Yes sir. Yes sir. Yes sir.’ I was kind of in shock. He was telling me my body language sucks, my attitude sucks, I’m disrespecting the Sullinger name the way I’m acting on and off the court, and when he says off the court he means on the bench.”
Satch’s fire is fueled by the fact his family is deeply rooted in basketball. Satch is a former coach, which included coaching Jared in high school. Older sons J.J. and Julian competed at high levels, but Jared was the only one to make it to the NBA. Yet when Jared was drafted by the Celtics with the 21st pick in 2013 out of The Ohio State University, Satch wasn’t about to let up. He may have retired from coaching, but he never quit the game.
He has expectations of how his son should carry himself. No complaining, no sulking, no moping. The NBA is a job, act like a professional at all times. Satch felt Jared needed a reminder of that. Jared, however, was not so receptive upon hearing it. Voices were raised and tempers rose. Hours passed without resolution.
“Very strong words from my father,” Jared said. “It was a heated argument at first. Then around, I’d say, four hours later after I slammed my door and kicked him out of my room and made him go to his room, I realized that I was wrong and he was right. I just apologized and told him I’m sorry, he’s right and I never meant to disrespect the family name.”
It wasn’t easy to admit initially, but Jared knew his father’s criticisms were warranted. For the entire month of January he had been letting distractions get in the way of his performances. He held on to sources of malcontent, letting them linger for days without brushing aside the unhappiness. Flagrant fouls were called, his shooting percentages dropped. That combined with nagging hand injuries led to a version of himself Jared didn’t like watching – nor did his father.
Satch was never lax on Jared growing up. If Jared wanted to play with his brothers, he had to hold his own. No special treatment for the youngest of the family. Either step up your game or don’t play at all. Jared thrived on those challenges – he learned how to rebound at age four – expanding his skills beyond his older counterparts. He became one of the top options on his teams, a role he was used to entering the NBA.
However, with the Celtics, Sullinger hasn’t been the go-to guy – a struggle that were foreign to Jared. In high school, he was named a McDonald’s All-American and won the Naismith Award. He accumulated piles of accolades in his two years at The Ohio State University and was projected as a lottery pick prior to health concerns about his back.
“When you grow up and you’re a basketball player, you’re kind of the go-to guy or you’re not only the go-to guy, but you get a lot of shots and you hardly ever come out. That’s what I was accustomed to,” Sullinger said. “Then when I got here, it kind of hit me like, ‘I’m not that guy anymore. I’m not that guy here at least.’ I just kind of woke up.”
In spite of falling in the draft, Jared showed why he garnered top-five talks early into his rookie season. He averaged close to 20 minutes a game, a rarity on a veteran-heavy Celtics team, and earned praise from hard-to-please Kevin Garnett. Jared was well on his way to establishing himself as one to watch before his season ended abruptly with a back injury that required surgery.
He made his return this season and while he still had to improve his conditioning following the lay off, he recorded three double-doubles in November and another two in December. Jared averaged 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds the first two months of the regular season while adding a long-range shot to his repertoire.
But as 2013 came to an end, Jared shot a combined 8-for-29 FG (16 points) in the final three games of the calendar year. The beginning of 2014 wasn’t much better. A 3-for-17 shooting night was followed by a 3-for-11 performance early in the month. Weeks later, he went 0-for-5 from 3-point range during a 4-for-14 showing against the Miami HEAT. That same week he shot 3-for-10 (including 0-for-4 from behind the arc) in a loss to a Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder.
Jared was still rebounding at a high level (nine double-digit games in January) but the frustrations were building. He fouled out once and 10 games of four fouls or more. Little things began accumulating into a larger mound of angst.
Satch had seen enough. He delivered a large dose of tough love.
“He cussed me out multiple times. Then he probably felt like he was good,” said Jared. “My dad always talks about karma. As long as you have karma off the court, you have karma on the court. Me, I would hold on to that game or hold on to that foul call throughout the whole game, throughout the next day, going into the next game, going into the next game, the next game. It happened and it was a snowball effect. Once it started rolling, it just got bigger and bigger and bigger, and I couldn’t stop it. … Finally it hit one of my cars, that’s what I say, it basically hit one of my cars and now one of my cars is damaged. But mentally I’m ok now.”
The change in Jared has been drastic since processing his father’s message. He has recorded five straight double-double dating back to January 29. During this span he is averaging 21.1 points (48.9% FG) and 13.4 rebounds, and his fouls have dropped to 3.0 per game.
“He’s putting up numbers,” said Kris Humphries. “He’s been big. He’s making shots, he’s rebounding the ball well, he’s getting putbacks. He’s playing great.”
Last weekend, Jared had a monster performance of 31 points and 16 rebounds against dominant big man DeMarcus Cousins. On Monday, he was named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Jared will also be heading to New Orleans to participate in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend.
“Pretty much I just let everything go,” Jared said. “If a ref makes a bad call or a call I don’t agree with, I let it go. If there’s a play call that I don’t think is the right play call, I let it go. If it’s me coming out of the game when I’ve got things rolling, I let it go. Before I would hold on to certain things like that.
“I’m smiling more. Before, in January, I hardly ever smiled. Then on top of that I’m just going out there and playing with a good attitude, a great attitude. I’m understanding whatever Coach (Brad) Stevens does or whatever the ref calls, that’s final, and live with it.”
Building mental tolerance can be challenging for young players. Often times it is easy to forget Jared is only 21; his stature makes him look years older. Teammate Gerald Wallace was drafted when he was just 18 and knows the ups and downs of barely being an adult NBA.
“You just can’t dwell on it because it’s a long season, there’s a lot of games,” said Wallace. “You’re going to make mistakes, things aren’t going to go your way, but you’ve just got to continue to play and move forward. I think knowing that fact, once you get stuck on something or something frustrates you, it takes you out of the game and mentally messes you up and lingers to the next game. You’ve got to learn to let it go, move into the next game, and stay focused on what you’re doing.”
Jared understands he can’t let growing pains affect him on the court. He has to carry himself with the same maturity and poise as players who have been in the league for 15 years. Age was never an excuse for him, and it isn’t about to become one now.
“It just means that I’ve got to grow up,” said Jared. “A lot of times I’m leading by example by going out there and doing certain things, it’s just going to take time.”
Jared will see his father during All-Star Weekend and Satch plans to travel to the Celtics’ upcoming road games against the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz. Jared has given him full permission to dish out another reminder if he sees his son slipping up again.
Without Satch around, Jared has his own ways of staying focused and remembering the basketball values his father instilled in him. Last season, Jared watched “The Lion King” (a childhood favorite) while rehabbing from his back surgery. He liked the movie’s message of overcoming challenges and drew motivation from it.
This time around he is drawing another lesson from the Disney classic, one about family. Being told he was disrespecting the Sullinger name impacted Jared. He had been taught being a Sullinger meant playing hard and respecting the game, similar qualities to wearing a Celtics uniform, he said.
Jared watched the movie prior to the January 29 game against the Philadelphia 76ers in which he broke out of a slump and posted 24 points and 17 rebounds. He estimates he has watched it in its entirety every non-game day since then.
“I think my favorite part is when Simba realizes he has to go back because he’s disrespecting his father,” Jared said. “His father pretty much laid the foundation down of who he is, and he forgot about it because he thought running away from his problems will finally erase the memories that happened. But at the end of the day, the only way to leave memories is by learning from them.”
For a brief period of time Jared cared too much about the wrong things. He got caught up in frustrations that weighed him down and frustrated thoughts that held him back on the court. His father’s visit reminded him of who he really is – he is a Sullinger, he is a Boston Celtic, he is a talented NBA player who is only scratching the surface of his potential.
“I’m just a guy that plays blue-collar Celtic green basketball,” he said. “That’s about it. I’m back to my old ways, but certain things don’t matter. What matters is us winning, what matters is me going out there playing my hardest.”
Sullinger lowered his voice into a near whisper as if repeating his mantra out loud.
“Hakuna Matata,” he said. “It means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata.”
NBA Rookie of the Year Watch – May 6
With the regular season winding down, Tristan Tucker offers his latest Rookie of the Year ladder, with three outstanding freshman performances leading the pack.
With the NBA season winding down, there is limited left time for rookies to make their cases for the Rookie of the Year award. In all, three rookies are leading the charge and will likely be named the top three rookies of the season. Without further ado, let’s take a look at how the race has changed over the last few weeks.
1. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous: 1)
Rookies shouldn’t be able to do what Anthony Edwards can do. Edwards is still just a teenager, but he possesses some of the best natural talent the NBA has seen. Furthermore, there aren’t many rookies that have quite seen the game-by-game improvement that Edwards has shown.
On the year, Edwards is averaging 18.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 32.8 percent from three. But to take a look at his improvement, Edwards’ numbers before and after the All-Star break paint the picture.
Before the All-Star break, Edwards averaged 14.9 points and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 37.1 percent from the floor and 30.2 percent from deep in 36 games. In the 30 games since then, Edwards is shooting a much better line of 44.7/35.2/75.2 and is averaging 23.7 points and 3.2 assists per game.
In his most recent 42-point outburst, which tied his career-high, Edwards broke the franchise record for most threes made in a game by a rookie. There’s a consensus in Minnesota that this won’t be the last record the rookie breaks.
Anthony Edwards tonight:
42 PTS (franchise record)
8 3PT (franchise record)
He is the first rookie in NBA history with 40+ points, 8+ threes on 75%+ shooting in a game. pic.twitter.com/NidZhAppNo
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 6, 2021
2. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets (Previous: Not Ranked)
Ball’s previous “not ranked” placement wasn’t a dig at him but instead an unfortunate testament to when the league thought he was out for the season with an injury. And then, miraculously, Ball returned just in time for a likely Charlotte postseason appearance. Because of his return and ensuing excellent play, Ball is penciled into one of the top two slots to end the year.
LaMelo Ball, friends. pic.twitter.com/OqNtaxwus6
— Nuh-KY-us Duncan (@NekiasNBA) May 1, 2021
Although he likely missed too much time to be named Rookie of the Year, Ball’s first season is something to behold. On the year, Ball is averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals and is a team leader for an exciting Hornets squad. Furthermore, Ball proved to be a much better three-point shooter than most thought he would be, connecting at 37.3 percent.
Ball is still over 100 days from turning 20-years-old and he’s already one of Charlotte’s best players.
3. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (Previous: 2)
The timing of Haliburton’s injury is unfortunate, as it quickly followed the loss of De’Aaron Fox that all but sealed Sacramento’s postseason hopes. However, Haliburton showed that the franchise has much to look forward to with his explosive and competent play.
While Haliburton had some up-and-down moments and didn’t get the starting opportunities of Ball and Edwards, he still had a fantastic year. Since his injury will likely take him out for the remainder of the regular season, Haliburton finished the year averaging 13 points per game. To go along with his fantastic scoring, Haliburton blossomed as a polished playmaker, averaging 5.3 assists per night.
In the five games he started at point guard without Fox in the rotation, Haliburton averaged a fantastic 17 points, 8.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Once they reach their respective peaks, Fox and Haliburton have the talent to hang with the best of the backcourts in the NBA.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Haliburton showed a great shooting form with fantastic results. The guard out of Iowa State shot 47.2 percent from the floor to go along with a 40.9 percent clip from three on over five attempts per game. While Haliburton isn’t likely to come away with the award, he certainly showed that several teams made mistakes in passing on him.
4. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (Previous: 3)
Bey won’t end up in the top three of voting for the Rookie of the Year award, but he still set his name in the record books. Bey’s been a historically good three-point shooter, currently connecting at a 37.9 percent clip from deep on 6.4 attempts per game.
The rookie out Villanova currently sits at 11th all-time for three-pointers made as a rookie, tied with Edwards, with 155. However, Bey needs just 14 more threes to jump all the way up to third all-time. With six games remaining in Detroit’s schedule, there’s even more opportunity for Bey to make history.
5. Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets (Previous: 4)
While there weren’t many bright spots for a Rockets season filled with turmoil, the team’s rookies and sophomores looked impressive. From Kevin Porter Jr. to Kenyon Martin Jr. to Tate, this team boasts some of the most underrated young talent in the league.
Tate in particular had an outstanding rookie season that is now likely over due to his entry into the health and safety protocols. If this truly is the end of the year for Tate, he wrapped up the year averaging 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.
Tate is the ultimate hustle player and is a glue guy that championship contenders need to take it to the next level. Look for the Rockets to be much more competitive next season under a good coach in Stephen Silas and a potential top pick to join a talented young corps.
6. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks (Previous: NR)
Like Bey, Quickley quickly became one of the best shooters in the draft class, but also offered promising guard play for a competitive Knicks squad. Because of stellar performances up and down the roster, the Knicks look likely to return to the postseason for the first time since 2012-13.
While Quickley stagnated a bit toward the middle and end of his rookie season, he still held down the backup guard spot for New York. On the year, Quickley is averaging 11.7 points and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 39.7 percent from downtown.
Ultimately, the Rookie of the Year race is going to come down to the wire between Edwards and Ball. For a 2020 rookie class that originally looked bleak, these rookies have vastly altered that perspective. Even though much is left to be determined for the eventual award winner, one thing is certain: the league is in good hands.
NBA Daily: Torrey Craig Relishing Role in Phoenix
The NBA trade deadline was busy as a number of high-profile players were moved. One name that went under the radar was Torrey Craig, who is making a major impact in his new home as the Phoenix Suns battle for the best record in the league.
The last time the Phoenix Suns played in a playoff game, Deandre Ayton was 11 years old. Not only is Phoenix back in the postseason, but they will also be one of the top seeds in the loaded Western Conference.
The emergence of the Suns as a championship contender may have started in the Orlando bubble last season. Chris Paul saw something he liked and has mentioned that numerous times as to why he wanted to play in Phoenix. His arrival solidified their aspirations, but this team is much more than just the future Hall-of-Fame point guard.
The pieces in Phoenix fit like a puzzle. Devin Booker is still the key player that opposing teams have at the top of their scouting report. Ayton has continued his development, which has been aided by Paul’s tutelage. Mikal Bridges has exploded onto the scene as one of the best young, two-way players in the league. Like every championship-contending team, there are valuable role players that fill out the roster.
Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky have been excellent additions throughout the season. Cameron Johnson continues to play a solid role and reclamation projects like Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter have given this team a much-needed boost of energy off the bench. They have made it difficult for Monty Williams to even find minutes for solid veterans such as E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway.
Jae Crowder has been one of the best offseason acquisitions in the league. He has missed the last eight games with a sprained right ankle, which has opened the door of opportunity for others. Torrey Craig has taken this opportunity and flourished.
Crowder has always played for winning teams over the course of his career, and Craig appears to be following suit. After going undrafted out of USC Upstate, he signed a two-way contract with the Denver Nuggets in the summer of 2017. That turned into a multi-year contract before he joined the Milwaukee Bucks as a free agent this past offseason. On March 18, the Bucks traded Craig to the Suns in exchange for cash and a trade exception.
James Jones trading cash for Torrey Craig has to be one of the most underrated midseason acquisitions this season.
An instant impact player from day one in Suns uniform. His hustle and energy allow him to play alongside anyone on the court, fits the way this Suns team plays.
— Cody Cunningham (@Cody_Cunningham) May 3, 2021
Denver’s defense suffered when Craig left and for whatever reason, he did not see the floor much in Milwaukee. Given ample opportunity, he seemed like he would be a perfect fit in their system. Even after battling through a groin injury and a broken nose, it just didn’t work out in Milwaukee.
Since joining the Suns, Craig is getting plenty of minutes and making the most of them. In April, he averaged more than 18 minutes per game and shot the ball with high efficiency. Not known as a great shooter, he hit 39 percent of his three-pointers and shot 51 percent overall from the floor. Against the Brooklyn Nets, he scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. On Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Craig poured in 18 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in a starting role where he went 8-10 from the floor.
Craig’s greatest strength is his defense, and he is well aware of that. One thing Phoenix has been lacking is the wing player that can defend the premier players in the league. It takes a special skill set to defend the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, etc. He has the size, athleticism and the little things that can’t be taught. With Crowder out and Bridges still needing to add more muscle, Craig’s role is crystal clear.
Torrey Craig’s value: Only big wing on Suns who can size up Julius Randle. Then he switches and covers Jordan Clarkson for about 10 straight seconds.
— Kevin Zimmerman (@KZimmermanAZ) May 1, 2021
It often takes players time to get acclimated to new situations. They have new teammates and learning the ins and outs of the system can be a tough task. Meeting the demands of leaders like Paul can be tantalizing as well. To his credit, Craig has fit like a glove, doing everything asked of him and doing it well. This seemingly small transaction at the trade deadline could pay major dividends for the Suns.
Six regular-season games remain for Phoenix, who will have one of the top two seeds in the Western Conference. Playoff basketball is much different than the regular season, as the defensive temperature goes up a few notches. Game planning and defensive schemes play a large role in the outcome of playoff games, which makes Craig even more valuable.
While the Suns are capable of scoring with anyone, it is their defense that makes them elite. They currently have the second-best net rating in the league, the sixth-best defensive rating and are seventh in opponents scoring. Their team defense is incredible but individually, they have sensational defenders at every position. Phoenix currently has four players in the top 30 of Defensive RPM with Ayton and Paul both inside the top ten.
Another thing this Suns team lacks is playoff experience. Aside from Paul and Crowder, none of the players on this roster have many postseason games under their belt. Craig has played in 33 postseason games in his career and brings valuable experience to this young team. With his improved shooting, he is another weapon that Monty Williams can use in these high-pressure games.
Craig wasn’t drafted when he finished his college career. He played overseas for three years, waiting on his next opportunity. He joined the G-League and finally got called up to help the Nuggets. In his first career game, Denver put him on Jrue Holiday in the closing seconds of the game. Craig blocked his potential game-winning shot and Denver won the game in overtime.
Sometimes it takes people more time to notice the blessings they have been given. Phoenix is fully cognizant of the player they have in Craig. Monty knows, Paul and Booker know and, soon, the rest of the league will realize just how good he is.
It’s been a long journey for Craig, but he could reach the top of the mountain very soon. The Suns have some big plans, and he is a key part of them.
NBA AM: Defensive Player Of The Year Watch
Rudy Gobert would appear to be the front runner for Defensive Player of the Year. But should he be? A few players have made it quite the interesting race — and Dylan Thayer lays out exactly who.
The postseason is almost here as the NBA regular season winds down to its last couple of weeks. At this point, it is obvious to tell whether a team is going to make the playoffs or head for an appearance in the NBA draft lottery. What hasn’t been obvious thus far though is who is going to win the MVP award, but it looks to be between Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard and Joel Embiid. The DPotY award has been one that most could agree belongs to Rudy Gobert for the season he is having. The official site of the NBA however does not agree with this notion. Anyways, let’s jump right into our eighth edition of the Defensive Player of the Year Watch for Basketball Insiders!
1. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (Previous: 1)
It’s too late to displace Rudy Gobert from this position in these rankings because his season has been that good. While the Utah Jazz are destined to finish amongst the top of the Western Conference, Gobert will also finish at the top of this award’s final tally, even if he somehow isn’t the winner. Without the center from France, the Jazz defense would be out of sorts, as just his presence around the rim is enough to ward off the opposing offense. Just ask the Spurs.
This is why Rudy Gobert is the DPOY. pic.twitter.com/5A6omPhAwV
— Slam Studios (@SlamStudios) May 4, 2021
And while he did get completely crossed out of his shoes by Devin Booker recently, it is a season-long award, so don’t hold that against him. For the majority of the season, he has held firm in key defensive stats such as defensive rating, defensive win shares and blocks per game. He ranks second in all three categories, per NBA Advanced Stats 𑁋 101.4 defensive rating, 0.181 defensive win shares and 2.8 blocks per game. These are key indicators that he has been having a monster season, along with the Jazz being one of the best teams in the league. As things continue to unfold, expect Gobert to come out of the season as the DPotY.
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Previous: 2)
The seven-foot-three center for the Philadelphia 76ers has had a memorable season under Doc Rivers. The hiring of the new coach made a big impact on the Sixers’ future and helped Embiid take his game to even higher levels. The Sixers have looked like a title contender throughout the season, thanks to great defense from their two stars. Embiid holding down the paint and Simmons being a pest on and off the ball around the perimeter. His defensive rating is fifth among qualified starters with a rating of 105.6, to go along with 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. Averaging more than a block and steal per game puts Embiid in elite company defensively, as P.J. Washington and Bam Adebayo are the only other centers putting up similar numbers. Embiid should be a finalist for this award for the impact and effect he leaves on the defensive end of the floor for the Sixers every game.
3. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (Previous: N/A)
Simmons has been severely disrespected on this list many times, so now is the time to give him the recognition he deserves. As the number two offensive option for the Sixers, the defensive end is a different story, as Simmons brings a lot of energy to the defensive unit. Statistics aside, he has been a complete machine on defense wreaking havoc on his opponents. Whether it’s sending a Charlie Brown three flying into the stands or picking off an inbound pass intended for Coby White and taking it to the basket to ice the game, he has been having one of the best defensive seasons across the NBA. The advanced stats back up the claim as he ranks fifth in defensive win shares with 0.142. He’s also third in the league in steals per game with 1.7 per game to go along with 0.6 blocks per game. His play on defense has raised eyebrows everywhere, and he should be in the running for the DPotY award.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 27, 2021
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Previous: 5)
The Greek Freak has been having another historical season, even though he hasn’t gotten the credit he truly deserves. This happens when you have insane statistical seasons the past few years though, some people stop paying attention. Antetokounmpo should be recognized for the impact he has on winning for the Milwaukee Bucks, especially on the defensive end. Antetokounmpo averages 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game at the power forward position and is always someone opposing players have to think about when they’re on offense. He also ranks seventh in defensive win shares (0.139) and eighth in defensive rating (106.3), so the advanced metrics also show just how valuable he is to have. While he may not win the award this year, even though he is the reigning DPotY, he should still be in the conversation as one of the game’s elite defenders.
5. Jimmy Butler, Miami HEAT (Previous: Honorable Mention)
The leader of the Miami HEAT has been having another phenomenal season on defense as the HEAT gear up for the playoff run. He has been a thief on defense as he leads the league in steals with 2.1 per game. Butler is so quick to display his elite defensive IQ as he is always there to jump the passing lane or attack a ballhandler at his vulnerable dribbling moments. Butler also ranks in the top 10 in defensive win shares with 0.138. It is clear that with him, Bam Adebayo, and the newly-acquired Victor Oladipo, that the HEAT are going to be a defensive nightmare for opposing teams this postseason.
Honorable Mention: Mike Conley, Utah Jazz (Previous: 4)
The game tape doesn’t jump off the screen to represent Conley’s case for the award, but as the season comes to an end, it is clear that Conley has played a huge role on the Jazz defense. Opposing teams not only have to worry about the Stifle Tower in the middle of the Jazz defense, but they also have to worry about the pesky point guard looking to steal the ball at any moment. Conley’s season has been remarkable as his improved play has been a catalyst of the improved play out of Utah. The advanced statistics give Conley a big lift and vaulted him into these rankings, as they are just too hard to ignore when he’s been at the top all season. Conley leads the league in both defensive rating (99.9) and defensive win shares (0.181), as well as the 1.4 steals per game he posts for the season.
The running for the DPotY is coming to an end. It looks like the center for the Utah Jazz, Gobert, is going to be the winner, but anything is possible. The Simmons for DPotY movement has begun to make waves on Twitter, so maybe he comes up and wins the award. It is the NBA and nothing is completely assured, so don’t be surprised if the winner isn’t who you thought it would be. Here’s to another great NBA regular season despite all of the obstacles that were faced during the pandemic. Stay tuned for the next edition of the rankings!