By far the most difficult week of the season to handicap, there was a tremendous amount of movement in the Basketball Insiders Weekly NBA Power Rankings. The Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers all lost on the same night, with both the Clippers and Cavaliers losing multiple games this week.
Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors engaged in an epic battle on Thursday, while some of the Association’s lower echelon teams scored wins against respectable competition.
Some of the questions we have include: How is Tom Thibodeau not getting more out of the Minnesota Timberwolves? How is Luke Walton getting so much out of the Los Angeles Lakers? How will the Detroit Pistons look once Reggie Jackson returns? What will become of the Memphis Grizzlies without Mike Conley?
Obviously, there are more questions, but the answers will only be revealed by continuing to watch.
30. Dallas Mavericks (Overall: 3-15 Last Week: 30)
By the looks of things, the Mavs should get comfy in the last spot. One of the bright spots? The play of Seth Curry. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 13.4 points per game. Maybe he’s more than just the “other” Curry?
29. Philadelphia 76ers (Overall: 4-14, Last Week: 25)
Trust the process! Joel Embiid earned the East’s Rookie of the Month honor for November. His minute limit has been increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes, so hopefully, that’ll translate into a few more wins for Philly.
In Wednesday’s home loss to the Knicks, Karl-Anthony Towns became the youngest player in NBA history to record at least 47 points and 18 rebounds in the team’s 106-104 loss. The T-Wolves are obviously trying to figure some things out, but where there’s a KAT, there’s a way.
If you’re looking for a saving grace for the young Suns, maybe it’s the fact that they have played 11 of their first 19 games on the road. Even worse? Three of the next four will be played away from the desert, as well. All things considered, Wednesday’s 109-107 victory over the struggling Hawks was a feel-good win they’ll happily pocket.
26. Brooklyn Nets (Overall: 5-13, Last Week: 26)
The Nets snapped their seven-game losing streak in dramatic fashion, getting 38 points and 14 rebounds from Sean Kilpatrick en route to erasing a double-digit deficit versus the Clippers on Tuesday night. The 127-122 overtime win was impressive, but unfortunately, still only counts once.
The Wiz bested the Kings, but got dropped by the Thunder. We can’t help but to wonder when the trade winds will begin swirling around John Wall. By far their most valuable player, DeMarcus Cousins suggested that the two have spoken about teaming up in the NBA after playing together in college. Let’s keep an eye on that.
Jrue Holiday might “only” be giving the Pels 17.1 points and 6.3 assists per game, but Anthony Davis and his team are 5-2 since the return of Holiday to the lineup. They’ll see the Clippers twice, the Thunder, Grizzlies and Warriors over their next seven, so we’ll be watching closely.
The HEAT scored an improbable upset on Thursday night, outlasting the Jazz in Salt Lake City 111-110. Even more impressive? James Johnson’s 24 points off the bench. The win gave the club back-to-back wins to end five-games-in-seven-nights stretch. That’s impressive.
Currently 1-1 on their five-game road trip, DeMarcus Cousins and his 36-point, 20-rebound effort couldn’t get the job done against the Wizards in Monday’s 101-95 overtime loss. With stops remaining in Boston, New York and Dallas, we think these guys would be fortunate to nab two out of the next three.
With reports coming out of Orlando that suggest heads may roll if things don’t improve, the Magic went down to San Antonio and broke a four-game losing streak by shocking Kawhi Leonard’s team. The win was their first at the Spurs since 2009 and just the fourth in their last 28 games in the house that Tim Duncan built. After that, we don’t even care about Thursday’s loss at the Grizzlies.
With the emergence of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets clearly have a few too many forwards and not enough minutes to go around, especially with Wilson Chandler leading the club with 18.2 points per game. Quick shout to Jamal Murray, who was named the West’s Rookie of the Month for November.
One of the most disappointing teams so far this season, the Pacers began their five-game trip with a 131-109 loss at the Blazers. They’re giving up the 25th most points per game in the league and rank 15th in defensive efficiency. Not exactly a recipe for success.
Quietly, the Blazers haven’t won back-to-back games since they beat the Nuggets back on Nov. 13. The team has a $120 million payroll and is struggling to remain atop the division. Them’s the breaks when you’re allowing 113.5 points per game (29th in the league) and are dead last in defensive efficiency (they give up 113.4 per 100 possessions). They still seem fairly mediocre.
Let’s hope Al Horford’s season ends much better than it has begun. There are a ton of numbers we can point out as it relates to the Celtics, but for now, we’ll focus on two: eight and 44. That’s the total number of games Horford has played and the percentage of Celtics games he’s played in. Not good.
With the 111-93 win at the Nets on Thursday night, Jason Kidd improved to 4-1 coaching against his former team at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. In terms on what happened on the court, Giannis Antenokounmpo is the truth! He had 23 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals and zero turnovers.
Stan Van Gundy’s team has won four of their last five and are expecting Reggie Jackson back soon. The young guard participated in a full practice on Monday and his return seems imminent. In the interim, Ish Smith has given the Pistons good minutes, averaging 13.6 points, 4.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game over his last five.
14. New York Knicks (Overall: 9-9, Last Week: 14)
Don’t look now, but the Knicks are 6-3 in their last nine and just outlasted the T-Wolves and a 47-point, 18-rebound effort from Karl-Anthony Towns. Kristaps Porzingis had 29 points, eight boards and four assists, but the most welcomed sight for Knicks fans? Carmelo Anthony hitting game-winning shots in two recent games, against the Wolves and the Hornets last Friday.
13. Chicago Bulls (Overall: 10-7, Last Week: 13)
Impressively enough, the Bulls went 4-2 on their six-game road trip and have quietly played 11 of their 17 games on the road. Call it crazy, but even though these guys haven’t won consecutive games in over two weeks, they seem to be in pretty good shape.
In Wednesday night’s 96-90 win at the Bulls, the starters for the Lakers were outscored by the bench, 56-40. Sitting pretty at .500, even without D’Angelo Russell, these guys are finding ways to win games. If you don’t truly believe that Luke Walton is changing the culture for these Lakers, you might be a hater.
Losers of seven of their last eight, the Hawks have sputtered. More concerning than the losses, though, are Paul Millsap’s concerns over his left hip. Millsap missed Wednesday’s 109-107 loss at the Suns and the club wasn’t able to pull out a win, even after getting 31 points from Dennis Schroder. Let’s hope he’s back soon.
Gordon Hayward didn’t get enough help on Thursday night, as the Jazz dropped a 111-110 home loss to the HEAT. The loss snapped the club’s four-game win streak. Rudy Gobert only registered six points, ending a double-double streak for him that was also at four games. Coincidence? Probably not.
All eyes are on (and all prayers are with) Mike Conley, one of the league’s warmest and most personable players. Conley suffered a vertebral fracture in the team’s 104-85 home loss to the Hornets on Monday. Andrew Harrison may be starting for the foreseeable future, and his 16-point, six-assist averages through two may be a tiny saving grace.
Team Kemba has responded to their four-game losing streak by winning three straight. Their latest victims were the Mavs on Thursday night, 97-87. You’d think a 3-4 stretch isn’t that great, but the skid of the Hawks has the Hornets somewhat improbably leading the Southeast.
With nine triple-doubles in his team’s first 20 games, Russell Westbrook has everyone talking. Even more impressive than his averaging a triple-double, though, is the fact that over his past five games, he’s averaging 13.4 rebounds and 13.2 assists. Best of all? After winning four straight, the Thunder are atop the Northwest Division.
James Harden’s 29 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists on Thursday night gave him his fourth triple-double of the season and helped the Rockets end the 12-game win streak of the mighty Warriors. The Rockets shot 14-for-44 from distance and have hit at least 10 three-pointers in 18 games this season. That’s an NBA record.
It was all good just a week ago… the Cavs suffered a 17-point loss to the Bucks on Tuesday and followed it up with a 113-94 home loss to the Clippers on Thursday. They’ve quietly played just six road games thus far and we fear they may get bored with their superiority out East. No panic, but we’ve gotta point out that the sense of urgency has been missing lately.
The Raptors have won four in a row and lead the Celtics and Knicks by two and three games in the division, respectfully. One issue is that they rank just 25th in defensive efficiency, a far cry from last season’s rank of 11th. Quietly, our biggest concern for the Raps is their relatively weak strength of schedule, though they did best the Rockets recently.
Thursday’s pummeling of the Cavs was a feel-good win for the Clips that reminded everyone how good they are, but that in and of itself could not excuse last week’s three consecutive losses to the Pistons, Pacers and Nets. They’ll live to fight for numero uno another day, but for now, the reign at the top stops at three weeks.
Somehow, the Spurs have managed to win their first 11 road games while somehow going just 4-4 at home in San Antonio. The loss to the Magic on Tuesday leaves a bad taste in our mouths, but the Spurs have won 10 of their last 11 and quietly clock in with the second-best record in the league. Our only concern? They’re just 13th in the league in defensive efficiency.
Even with the 12-game win streak coming to an end at the hands of the Rockets on Thursday night, the Dubs are the beneficiary of futility at the top. Thanks to three losses by the Clips, two by the Cavs and the Spurs’ home loss to the Magic, the owners of the best record in the league backed in to number one. Food for thought: In the loss to the Rockets, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shot 13-for-42 from the field, and GS still probably should have won the game. They’re THAT good.
With the Warriors backing into the top spot, the Thunder storming and the Hawks descending, there was a fair amount of movement with regards to league’s Top 10 teams. The latter third featured much of the same, so check back next week to see whose stock rises and falls.
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!