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The Underrated Players: Southeast Division

Matt John continues Basketball Insiders’ newest series by looking at who has flown under the radar in the Southeast Division.

Matt John

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This week, Basketball Insiders is taking a look at the league’s most underrated players division-by-division. Drew Maresca took a look at the Atlantic Division. Then, Benny Nadeau kept up the momentum with the Northwest Division. Today we’re taking a look at the Southeast Division.

In recent years, the Southeast Division has been often critiqued for being one of, if not, the weakest division in the entire league. Last year, it really wasn’t pretty. Only one team made it to the playoffs that season – the seventh-seeded Orlando Magic – and they ousted pretty easily by Toronto. The year before that, there were two – Miami and Washington – but they were two of the three lower seeds who had a similar fate in the postseason.

When you stop to think about it, it’s been a downward trajectory for the whole division since the HEAT disbanded in 2014.

Things have been better, but not by leaps and bounds. Miami’s having its best season since LeBron James left, although they look like a team that’s a piece or two away from being a contender. Orlando was more-likely-than-not making the playoffs. Still, they have more-or-less remained the same as where they were last year: League average – and that might be giving them too much credit.

As for the rest of the division, it’s not pretty. Washington and Charlotte are pegged right at below-average currently. They’re definitely not the worst teams in the league, but pending any late-season miracles, they’re not making the playoffs. Oddly enough, the worst team in the division, Atlanta, happens to be the one team everyone’s most excited about long-term.

When you put all of that into consideration, it may seem hard to find underrated players in a division when the majority of it isn’t really that good. However, good individual performances can get overshadowed because not much team success has come from it.

Goran Dragic, Miami HEAT

When analysts discuss Miami’s major steps forward this season, they talk about Jimmy Butler’s acclamation as the team’s top dog. Bam Adebayo’s evolution into one of the league’s best young centers. Their suddenly-exciting rookie class spearheaded by Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. The one plot thread that doesn’t get enough credit is Goran Dragic’s seamless transition from starting point guard to sixth man.

Being mere weeks from turning 34, it’s clear Dragic doesn’t have the same footwork he did when he bent defenses to his will in his heyday. With him on the downside of his career, some adjustments had to be made on his part. Unlike his role in past years, he had to learn to lead the second unit.

It’s true that Dragic had that role back in his early days in Phoenix, but a lot has changed for him since then. Having to relearn a modified role such as this is much easier said than done. But in doing so, Dragic has actually had quite a resilient year compared to his injury-plagued 2018-19 season. In fewer minutes than he’s used to, Dragic has averaged 16 points and five assists on 44/38/77 splits, and it’s led to Miami owning one of the more offensively potent benches in the league.

When the Sixth Man of the Year discussion comes up, the first names that come to mind are Lou Williams, Montrezl Harell, or Dennis Schroder. Dragic’s case is simple: He thrived when confronted with the task of going from lead dog to bench spark on a team that won’t be messing around in the playoffs. For that, he deserves consideration and to be on this list.

Davis Bertans, Washington Wizards

Over the past several years, we’ve come to see JJ Redick and Kyle Korver prove how potent they can be in an offense if they are used to the fullest of their capabilities. If you have somebody so consistently money from three that the other team must gameplan to ensure that he won’t have a sliver of daylight, you’ve got a weapon at your behest.

Not that we didn’t know he could stroke it from deep before, but now, we have our newest iteration of the sharpshooter – Davis Bertans. There hasn’t been much to cheer about in regards to the basketball team that resides in the nation’s capital, but Bertans’ ascent into a three-point flamethrower has certainly been a sight to behold.

Bertans’ floor-stretching abilities have breathed new life into the Wizards’ offense. When he’s on the court, their offensive rating is 113.6, which matches the Los Angeles Clippers’ third-rated offensive rating. 77 percent of his shots have been from distance this season, which has led to him having his best season yet as a professional. His scoring numbers have nearly doubled, and he has the second-highest net rating among Wizards who have played at least 1,000 minutes.

Another reason why Bertans gets a mention here: Most of the sharpshooters in the league are either guards, wings, or a hybrid of both. Bertans is a big. He’s mainly a power forward, but Washington played him at center for 16 percent of his minutes. There are other stretch bigs in the league who share around the same three-point percentage as Bertans – Kelly Olynyk at 43.2 and Nemanja Bjelica at 42.4. The difference is, they’ve attempted eight more threes than Bertans combined. That’s how you know how dangerous Bertans is compared to them at the three-point line.

There was a reason why the price for Bertans at the trade deadline – even on an expiring contract – was two first-round picks. If Washington really is committed to getting back to what they were three years ago or even better, having Bertans stick around should absolutely be a priority.

Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic

12.1 points. 5.2 assists. 3.3 rebounds. 47/25/72 splits. 28.3 minutes a game. For any starting point guard in the NBA, those should be seen as pedestrian numbers. For Markelle Fultz, these numbers should be seen as a step in the right direction.

Fultz’s hurdles, both mental and physical, have been well-documented since he entered the league. Now that he seemingly has gotten past them, he’s making leaps toward reaching his potential as a prospect. He’s still got a long, long way to go, but at least he’s consistently on the court.

At 21 years old, Fultz is at least shown both aggression and vision when taking the court. He has good touch around the basket – shooting 65 percent from inside zero to three feet – and he played well enough to usurp DJ Augustin as the team’s starting point guard. That’s… something! Sadly, he hasn’t been getting a whole lot of attention because Orlando is a mid-tier team that may have peaked with the squad they have. Still, they should be encouraged by Fultz’s progress in his first full year with the team.

There’s still plenty of time for Fultz to improve his mechanics. In Orlando, he’s had some breathing room and, so far, he hasn’t taken the league by storm, but he has shown that he still breeds intrigue.

At the end of the day, Fultz’s numbers won’t blow you away when you factor in him getting picked number one in his draft, but we can still look at it and wonder if the best is yet to come.

Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando Magic

Speaking of players whose careers could have been in jeopardy, it’s so nice to see that Michael Carter-Williams may have found a home in Orlando. The guy was a late-season pickup last year after Houston barely used him. Now, he’s a rotation player on a playoff team.

There’s a lot about Williams that would turn teams off. That pretty much starts and ends with his jumper. It’s not ugly by any means, it’s just not very reliable. His percentages throughout his career from pretty much everywhere have been bad. Before this season, you could look anywhere he’s shot from the court outside of zero to three feet and would not come to any conclusion beyond saying uh-oh.

Yet there’s so much to like about him. He’s a 6-foot-5 point guard with long limbs, decent passing vision and the ability to be a menace defensively. Carter-Williams has picked up his efficiency from around the floor – 43/29/83 splits is a definite win for him – and has, for the most part, stuck to what he’s good at.

The only problem is, again, Orlando’s not really making much headway. No matter what direction they decide to go in, at least Carter-Williams can rest easy knowing he proves that he belongs in the NBA. Even if his stats aren’t nearly as good as they were early on in his career, Carter-Williams has found his niche.

Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets

OK, fair, we know what you might be thinking, but wait: Rozier’s performance for the Hornets is underrated for several reasons.

1. Charlotte hasn’t been good this season, that was something we all were anticipating. The difference between this year and last is that there seems to be some semblance of promise in this team. Devonte Graham, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington and even Malik Monk seems to have made some nice progress.

Their record doesn’t necessarily reflect an improvement from last season, but their ability to stay at the same production after losing Kemba Walker is impressive. Rozier has had a lot to do with both the youth movement and Charlotte’s perseverance.

2. He’s been outshined by Graham. Graham has come back to earth after an electrifying start, but his unexpected jump overshadowed that this has been Rozier’s best season as a professional.

3. He’s given Charlotte their money’s worth, unlike somebody like Nicolas Batum, Rozier has at least given the Hornets good production for the contract they gave him. 18 points and 4.1 assists on 42/41/87 splits is strong at $19 million a year is, ultimately, not a deal-breaker. Especially when you compare him to some of their other poor contracts.

Rozier hasn’t necessarily surpassed expectations, but he hasn’t been a disappointment when many thought that he would do just that. Many have dismissed Charlotte for their front office’s mishandlings over the last several years. Perhaps the fact that Rozier has turned out better than most of their recent additions could signal a turning point.

Vince Carter, Atlanta Hawks

We had to include Carter on this list, we just had to. A player with his reputation and his impact on the game of basketball deserves a shoutout as he rides off into the sunset.

We don’t have to dive into his stats because they don’t accurately reflect on what he’s done. In case it’s not clear, Carter didn’t have to choose this path to end his career. He could have ridden on James or Curry’s coattails to a ring and nobody would have blamed him. Is there a feeling more rewarding than winning a championship to finish your career? To end it all on a high note?

As it turns out, yes. Carter didn’t want his legacy at the end of his time to be defined by if he won or not. He wanted it to be defined by how he influenced the NBA of tomorrow. We know his impact on the Sacramento Kings. Not too long from now, we’ll see the kind of effect it’ll have on the Atlanta Hawks. They may not be good now, but we know the sort of ceiling they have on their hands with Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and the aforementioned Collins.

If they reach it, don’t be shocked if they give credit to Carter for how they did.

Many NBA legends have talked about the veterans who influenced them when they were young – Vince Carter believed that was what was most important. In short, making sure that these young players are on the right path from the start and not take anything for granted. Carter made a lasting impact on the NBA, and that impact should last for generations.

This list goes to show that there’s no correct way to be underrated. You can be underrated because you embraced a new lesser role. You can be underrated because you thrived in a bigger role and didn’t get noticed. You can be underrated because you made progress that no one saw coming. You can be underrated because your impact in the locker room greatly exceeds that on the court. And so on and so forth. . .

We’re still some ways from seeing this NBA season resolve, if at all, but, when it does, we’ll see these underrated players continue to shine.

Matt John is a staff writer for Basketball Insiders. He is currently a Utah resident, but a Massachusetts native.

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NBA Rookie of the Year Watch – March 5

Two rookies have pulled away from the rest of the pack in the hunt for the Rookie of the Year award. Tristan Tucker breaks down how the rookie pyramid is shaping up halfway through the season.

Tristan Tucker

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The All-Star break is nearly upon the NBA, and the Rising Stars rosters were just announced with several rookies leading the charge. Two players have pulled away by a significant margin in recent weeks, with several first-year players making impacts on winning teams. Let’s take a look at how the rookie ladder has changed over the last two weeks.

1. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets (Previous: 1)

February was kind to the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, who’s ascended to another level of stardom in the NBA in just his first season. The rookie is averaging 20.1 points, 6.7 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game during that span. Since Basketball Insiders’ last update to the rookie ladder, Ball put up a stretch of five 20-plus point games, including a 30-point showing against the Portland Trail Blazers and a 24-point, 12-assist game in Charlotte’s wild win over the Sacramento Kings.

One of the concerns surrounding Ball when he entered the league was his ability to knock down jump shots at an effective rate. The 6-foot-6 point guard has shattered those concerns with his recent play and knocked down 40.7 percent of his attempts from downtown in just under seven tries per game.

When Charlotte parted ways with Kemba Walker in the summer of 2019, it would’ve been far-fetched to imagine that the Hornets would be stacked at the point guard position in just two years. However, with Ball and Terry Rozier, the Hornets are looking at a legitimate shot at the postseason.

2. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (Previous: 2)

Together with Ball, Haliburton has all but cemented this Rookie of the Year race as a two-party contest. It gets harder to not give Haliburton the top nod with each passing week; the rookie out of Iowa State is completely dominating off the bench for the Kings. Though he’s missed the last three games for Sacramento, Haliburton is averaging 17.4 points, 6 assists and 2.4 steals per game while shooting a very impressive 47.9/39.4/85.7 line in five games over the last two weeks.

Haliburton’s excellence extends beyond his scoring, as the Kings are 1.5 points better when Haliburton is on the floor. Furthermore, the 6-foot-5 guard boasts an assist percentage of 24.6, which ranks in the 97th percentile of all NBA players and a 1.33 assist to usage clip, which ranks in the 100th percentile.

The Kings have to feel good about their young core in spite of their record, especially with Haliburton earning Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors and a spot on the Rising Stars roster.

3. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks (Previous: 5)

Before the season, nobody would’ve guessed that the Knicks would be the fifth seed at the halfway point of the season. Head coach Tom Thibodeau and improved veteran play from All-Star Julius Randle and others have sparked the franchise’s turnaround. No player, however, is more synonymous with that spark of energy than Quickley.

Since the last ladder update, Quickley is averaging 13.5 points on a staggering 48.4 percent clip from deep. When the team acquired Derrick Rose, Quickley’s playing time was in the air, but the rookie’s resilience and determination have kept him in the lineup as he continued to exceed expectations.

4. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (Previous: 6)

Bey’s placement here should be representative of the overall fantastic job the Detroit Pistons have done with all of their young pieces. Bey is obviously playing great — more on that later — but other draftees Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee are playing phenomenally as well. Then there’s the case of resurgences in Josh Jackson — averaging a career-high 13.5 points per game — and Dennis Smith Jr., who was just acquired and posted a triple-double in a blowout win.

But, in a year that many thought would be a throwaway for the Pistons, especially with seventh overall pick Killian Hayes sidelined, Bey and the rest of the young corps along with Jerami Grant and company have stepped up and delivered exciting basketball to Detroit.

Over the last two weeks, Bey is averaging 11.7 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 37 percent from deep on just under eight attempts per game. If Hayes pans out, the 2020 NBA Draft is shaping up to be a turning point for the Pistons.

5. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous: 3)

If Edwards could hit shots at even a 45 percent clip, there’s little doubt that he would be running away with the scoring title of all rookies and perhaps the Rookie of the Year award itself. However, it continues to be a hindrance, as Edwards is shooting a horrid 32.8 percent from the field and 25.4 percent from 3 in the last two weeks.

It’s unfortunate that the shooting is so inconsistent, as he’s put together a string of four 19-plus points per game contests and several highlight-reel plays across the span of the last two weeks.

The last two weeks brought a lot of turmoil to light for the Timberwolves, with the team undergoing a head-coaching change, bringing in Chris Finch from the Toronto Raptors to replace Ryan Saunders. But that’s not all, as Ricky Rubio recently voiced displeasure with the team’s performance and D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley continue to be out.

With all the drama surrounding Minnesota, it’s hard to envision any rookie seeing much success there. The fact that Edwards is able to put these high-scoring performances together at all is telling of how special a talent he can be.

6. Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets (Previous: 4)

Tate’s on-court production has dipped slightly in conjunction with the Houston Rockets’ losing streak, but the hyper-athletic forward is still giving it his all on a nightly basis. Look no further than the fact that the team is parting ways with DeMarcus Cousins for proof that Houston believes in Tate as a member of its future.

Houston plays better when Tate is on the floor, per Cleaning the Glass. And with that comes rejuvenated energy from all points on the court. When Tate is on, the team’s offensive rebounding percentage increases by 8.1 percent, which ranks in the 98th percentile of the entire NBA. 

Even though the Rockets are in a slump, Tate is averaging 9.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game on 47.9 percent shooting from the field. Most recently, he enjoyed a double-double in James Harden’s return to Houston.

Honorable Mention: Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers (Not Ranked)

Okoro gets his first rookie ladder nod after the Cleveland Cavaliers saw a fantastic stretch in which the team won four straight games. During that span of time, Okoro averaged 10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals while seeing season-best shooting figures of 49.1 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from three.

The 6-foot-5 forward out of Auburn has played the second-most minutes of any rookie and has started in every game for the Cavs, a promising start to Okoro’s career. Okoro is also playing strong defense for a Cleveland team that desperately needs good defenders and his stock could rise as the weeks go on.

With a multitude of highlight-reel dunks, passes and plays in just the last two weeks, several rookies are making big impacts on teams in a year where young depth is crucial. While Ball and Haliburton are currently leading the race, don’t sleep on James Wiseman to make a resurgence, as he scored 14, 11 and 16 points, respectively, in his first three games since returning from injury. Be sure to check back with Basketball Insiders for the next rookie ladder to see how tight this competition gets!

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NBA Daily: Marcus Morris Thriving Off Bench

Marcus Morris has been one of the Clippers’ most dependable reserves this season, David Yapkowitz breaks it down.

David Yapkowitz

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When Marcus Morris Sr. came over to the Los Angeles Clippers last season near the trade deadline, he stepped right into the starting lineup at power forward. He started all 19 regular season games – including the bubble – and when the team re-signed him this past offseason, he looked like a lock to remain in the starting lineup.

But he’s been one of the main anchors of the Clippers’ second unit this year and coming off the bench was something he requested of new head coach Tyronn Lue. Along with Lou Williams, the pair have spearheaded one of the most formidable bench units in the NBA. The pair has combined for 24.8 points per game on the season and they’re both shooting lights out from three-point range.

On a call last month with media, Morris admitted that this dynamic pairing with Williams was exactly what he was envisioning when he initially asked to be part of the second unit.

“Building that chemistry with me and him both coming off the bench, we’ve to be one of, if not the best bench in the league. Both of us are proven vets, proven scorers in this league,” Morris said. “I think our camaraderie, us being really good friends, I think that helps on the court. Not just scoring but just being vets, being able to talk and being able to lead our unit.”

As well as he’s played this season, it wasn’t always such a smooth transition to the Clippers. Morris’ numbers dropped last year from his career averages and he shot 31 percent from the three-point line; the lowest he’s shot since his second year in the NBA. Like most of the team, he faded a bit during the team’s second-round playoff debacle against the Denver Nuggets.

This season, although his scoring isn’t as high as it used to be at 12.4 points per game, Morris’ shooting has been much more efficient. His 46.3 percent from downtown is a career-high. He looks much more comfortable in the flow of the offense and he’s played his role to perfection. Naturally, Morris credits Lue with helping him establish his role.

“I think the biggest difference is just having that exact from [Tyronn Lue] just talking to me and telling me exactly what he’s wanting me to do. Last year, I thought I was a lot of times in no man’s land, I couldn’t really put my finger on my role,” Morris said.

This year, I’m coming off the bench to be aggressive, coming off to bring energy, shoot the ball, the guys I’m playing with just playing off them. Lou does a great job of drawing the defense and you have to have guys that can knock it down. I’m just here to do whatever it takes, whether it’s to bring energy or to score.”

Morris began the season missing the first eight games due to a knee injury. But he’s always been one of the more durable players in the league and since then, he only sat out one game. Thankfully for him, he didn’t end up needing surgery only rest.

Lue has been quite pleased with Morris’ contributions this season. He credited Morris’ conditioning while acknowledging the extra work he’s put in to be as effective as he has.

“Just putting in the work, just trying to get his body right, just trying to adjust to the speed of the game, when you’ve been out for so long it is kind of tough to just step back in and play well,” Lue said. “We’ve been needing and asking more from him in the post, rebounding the basketball and, of course, shooting the basketball. He’s been great and he’s been putting in the work. You see the results.”

Like the rest of the team, Morris has been able to shut out any lingering effects from the bubble. He knows the Clippers have championship aspirations this season and, because of the way they flamed out in the playoffs, there will doubt as to whether this team is capable of winning a title.

“Seeing how many people jumped ship last year, I think it definitely helped us. That’s how it works when you have a good team and doesn’t work, people tend to jump off the ship,” Morris said. “We get back to work and we get a championship, people will jump back on the ship. That’s just how it works. We are going to continue to find our camaraderie and we are going to continue to get better. Come playoff time, we’re going to be ready.”

And for the Clippers to win their first championship in franchise history, they’re going to need Morris to be at his best. His versatility is key to their attack, while that ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting –plus putting the ball on the floor or posting up – is a big part of what makes the Clippers so dangerous.

He’s willing to do whatever needs to be done.

“I’m a hooper. Whatever you need me to do. One thing I do, I don’t just talk,” Morris said. “I’m just playing. I’ve been in the league for a long time, going on my eleventh year. It doesn’t change for me. One thing you’ll find out about me is I’m never too high, never too low.”

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NBA AM: Defensive Player of the Year Watch

Will we see Rudy Gobert win another Defensive Player of the Year Award? Or will we have a new winner this year?

Dylan Thayer

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In the fourth edition of the Defensive Player of the Year Rankings, Basketball Insiders continues to look at the players excelling on the defensive side of the ball. The Utah Jazz continues to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference amidst a surprising season, and they will still be well represented in these rankings. But there’s another newcomer to the list, an MVP-caliber player looking to lead his team to the NBA Finals. Ready to take look at the rankings? Let’s get into it.

1. Rudy Gobert (Previous: 2)

The 28-year-old center out of France is one of the best defensive big men the game has seen in recent years – and this year is another example of that as Gobert has been the anchor of the best team in the NBA. Better, he has been a vital piece to their unanticipated success by taking part in all 35 of the Jazz games thus far.

Looking at Gobert’s numbers, he is still second in the league in blocks with 2.8 blocks per game, trailing only Myles Turner in that category.  Gobert has had three or more blocks in 18 games, even reaching four in 12 of them. 

In the defensive rating category, Gobert ranks third in the league with a rating of 103.0, per NBA Advanced Stats. This number is just enough behind Lebron James at 102.6 and teammate Mike Conley, who leads the NBA with a rating of 100.8. These three players are also in the top three for defensive win shares, with Gobert sitting in third with a DWS of 0.154. Gobert should be the current frontrunner as he has led the best team in the NBA on defense through the first half of the season. 

2. LeBron James (Previous: 4)

As a reminder, LeBron James has not made an All-Defensive Team since 2014. How about breaking that streak with a DPotY award as well? He very well could.

Without Anthony Davis, James is unarguably the tone-setter for the defense. The Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 26 is a prime example of this. During that contest, James had 3 blocks and 4 steals as the Lakers won by 9. Furthermore, James has managed to average 1 block and 1.3 steals per game since the injury to Davis.

Notably, James ranks in the top three in both defensive rating and defensive win shares. James is just behind Conley in defensive rating at 102.6 compared to Conley’s 100.8 rating. Keep an eye on James’s defensive impact for the defending champs as the season continues to unfold.

3. Joel Embiid (Previous: N/A)

Embiid has been very neglected on this list, but now is the time for him to make his appearance. Yes, it is very high for a player to debut on this list, but he’s been on a tear as of late. 

In his career-high night on Feb. 19, Embiid went off for 50 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocks in a matchup with the Chicago Bulls. This is the game that put the league on notice of Embiid’s brilliant season, both offensively and defensively, as he leads the first-place Philadelphia 76ers. As things stand right now, he’s averaging 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.

Taking a deeper dive into Embiid’s floor presence is what makes him stand out. He’s 13th in the NBA in defensive rating at 106.6. He also ranks 10th in defensive win shares with 0.131, per NBA Advanced Stats. The coaching change in Philadelphia has allowed Embiid to run the Sixers’ offense and, as things stand right now, he’s certainly in both the MVP and DPotY conversation. 

4. Mike Conley (Previous: 1)

Since an extended absence, Conley returned to make an instant impact in the Jazz lineup, averaging 2.0 steals over his last five games. The unexpected success has been due in large part to Conley’s improved play. Of course, Conley is high up on this year’s All-Star snub list, but his significant individual improvements won’t go unnoticed here.

Conley is currently tied for third in the league in steals per game at 1.5. He is also first in defensive rating with a rating of 100.8. Beyond that, he then ranks second in defensive win shares with 0.168. Without Conley, it’s hard to see the Jazz having the success they’ve enjoyed this year. Watch out for him as the season approaches the midpoint as he tries to become the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton during the 1995-96 season. 

5. Myles Turner (Previous: 3)

Despite a slip in the standings for the Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner has been a very bright spot for the team defensively. He leads the league in blocks with 3.4 per game and has a pretty sizeable lead over Gobert in that category. Add in the fact that he is averaging 1.1 steals per game, it’s easy to see why Turner is so high in these rankings.

If the Pacers can manage to get things back in order amidst a sub-.500 record thus far, Turner could rise into the upper part of these rankings again.

Honorable Mention: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Previous: N/A)

While voter fatigue may hinder the chance of Giannis earning his second consecutive DPotY award, he should be in the conversation again. The Milwaukee Bucks are amongst the top three in the Eastern Conference standings, thanks to the stellar defensive play from the two-time MVP. 

It will be interesting to see where he finishes in the voting after the season’s end. Maybe he gets this award for a second-straight year, while the voter fatigue towards him takes place in the MVP ballots.

While these rankings have gotten competitive as of late, there’s still plenty of time for rising and falling in Basketball Insiders’ weekly Defensive Player of the Year rundown.

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