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NBA Defensive Player of the Year: March Power Rankings

Ben Simmons defending Tyler Herro
Ben Simmons defending Tyler Herro
Kunal Sethi
ANALYST
Modified 08 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Three months into the 2020-21 NBA season, the 'Defensive Player of the Year' conversation has heated up.

In an offensive-heavy era of basketball, a few players have stood out with their defensive prowess. Many of these players have a 'defense-first' mindset, and they'll do anything they can to help their team at the other end of the floor.

This year's Defensive Player of the Year race has been particularly delightful to watch. Ben Simmons recently declared that he is the best defender in the league. He said Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert is good but not better than Simmons himself.

Meanwhile, three-time champion Draymond Green took it a step further, saying that he is the best defensive player of all time. The claim was met with both criticism and praise, with many analysts chiming in with their two cents.

On that note, let's take a look at the Defensive Player of the Year Power Rankings for March.

2020-21 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Power Rankings - March

Ben Simmons and Rudy Gobert have topped this list since the start of the year. They swapped the top place with each other, with Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers standing steady at three for a few weeks.

Players like Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid featured in earlier power rankings. But it has been a while since their injury, so they are inevitably absent in this list. However, LeBron James is still in the top 5, as his injury is minor, and he is expected to be back soon enough.

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With many players declared themselves to be the best defender in the league this season, things could get interesting as the Defensive Player of the Year race heats up.

So without further ado, let's take a look at the top five players in the power rankings for the month of March.

#5 Draymond Green

Draymond Green attempting to block LaMelo Ball
Draymond Green attempting to block LaMelo Ball's shot

MP - 30, RPG - 6.4, BPG - 0.8, SPG - 1.4, DWS - 1.8, DBPM - 2.6.

Previous DPOY Power Ranking - N/A.

It is no secret that Draymond Green is an elite defender in the league. He helped the Golden State Warriors reach five straight NBA finals and win three titles. As mentioned earlier, he recently made a statement saying he is the best defender in the history of the game, He has said in this regard:

"I think I'm the best defender to ever play in the NBA. I stand by that, that I'd put myself up against anyone...We gotta win more games...We win more games, climb the standings, I think there’s no question that I’ll be Defensive Player of the Year. There’s no defender better than me. So there you have it."

Draymond Green's defensive FG% of 6.1 isn't too far behind the tallies of Myles Turner (6.4%) and Rudy Gobert (6.9%). Green has been one of the league's top five defenders for six straight years and has the best DBPM (Defensive Box Plus/Minus) amongst all players featured on this list.

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Since his stat sheet doesn't show as many blocks as that of some of the other players, he is underrated for a 'Defensive Player of the Year' tag.

The former NBA champion, however, produced a major highlight this season when he faced a '3-on-1' fast break and stopped it all by himself; he has done that twice this season.


#4 LeBron James

LeBron James in a match against the Minnesota Timberwolves
LeBron James in a match against the Minnesota Timberwolves

MP - 33.9, RPG - 7.9, BPG - 0.6, SPG - 1, DWS - 2.6, DBPM - 1.7

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Previous DPOY Power Ranking - 4.

'The King' himself is the only player to feature in the Defensive Player of the Year power rankings as well as the MVP power rankings.

Many would argue that LeBron James doesn't play defense like he used to back in his Miami Heat days, but his defensive impact is unmistakable. He has a defensive FG% of 40.6 compared to the usual 46% that opponents shoot; that 5.4% difference is the seventh-best in the league this season.

At 36, James has the third-best defensive win shares in the NBA and has the highest defensive rating for a non-center.

He has the 14th-best DBPM in the league, and the LA Lakers hold the best defensive rating among all 30 teams.

LeBron James' defensive impact is undeniable. Many people, including James himself, still believe that he was robbed of the DPOY award in 2012 and 2013.

The winners of the award weren't even inducted into the NBA First Team All-Defense in both years, which is odd for a Defensive Player of the Year winner. If you've been following the league long enough, commentator Mike Breen shouting "BLOCKED BY JAMES" must ring a bell.


#3 Myles Turner

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Myles Turner blocking Jayson Tatum
Myles Turner blocking Jayson Tatum's shot

MP - 31, RPG - 6.4, BPG - 3.5, SPG - 0.9, DWS - 2.2, DBPM - 1.9

Previous DPOY Power Ranking - 3.

Myles Turner has put on a clinic this season in denying shots. He is leading the league in blocked shots with 3.5 blocks per game and 148 in total. The second-best tally stands at three blocks per game and 136 total.

Turner firmly believes that his rim-protecting prowess makes him the best defensive player in the league since he has more 'rejections' than anyone else.

The Indiana Pacers have advocated for Turner to be the DPOY this year, subtlely suggesting that the rankings got things wrong.

He is seventh-best in defensive rating and defensive win shares and ninth-best in defensive box plus/minus. There was a five-game stretch this season in which Turner registered 20 blocks.


#2 Rudy Gobert

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Rudy Gobert blocking Jimmy Butler
Rudy Gobert blocking Jimmy Butler's shot

MP - 30.7, RPG - 13.4, BPG - 3, SPG - 0.5, DWS - 3.3, DBPM - 2.4

Previous DPOY Power Ranking - 1.

The former two-time winner Rudy Gobert is making a serious case for his third DPOY award.

Gobert's defensive prowess is undeniable and difficult to ignore; he is the defensive anchor for the Utah Jazz, the team with the best record in the league this season.

He believes he should win the award, considering his prowess at the defensive end. Guard and other bigs have gotten afraid of Gobert, as he has a tendency to reject shots without the opponent noticing.

Gobert is second-best in blocked shots, first in defensive win shares, first in defensive rating and sixth in defensive box plus/minus.

In his second game against the Warriors this season, Gobert recorded 24 points, 28 rebounds and four blocks. In the process, he became just the sixth player in NBA history to achieve that feat since the league began tracking blocks in 1973.


#1 Ben Simmons

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Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers

MP - 34, RPG - 7.9, BPG - 0.7, SPG - 1.5, DWS - 2.2, DBPM - 1.7

Previous DPOY Power Ranking - 2.

Ben Simmons takes the first spot in the NBA defensive power rankings this week. As mentioned earlier, he considers himself the best defender in the league, and several people seem to agree.

76ers' coach Doc Rivers spoke about Simmons' defensive ability:

"Ben Simmons is a lock for DPOY. He guards every position. He's everywhere. He literally, at times, swallows players."

Simmons spoke about why he deserves the award over Rudy Gobert, even though Gobert is leading the most defensive categories:

"He’s a great defender, but I don’t think he’s guarding one through fives, you can’t tell him to go guard Kawhi (Leonard) or Paul [George] or guard a point guard. He’s not doing that on a daily basis."

One cannot deny that there is wisdom in what Simmons is saying. Gobert often gets eaten up by quick and fast guards with savvy ball-handling skills, and he maintains his defensive prowess in the low post. But Ben Simmons can guard all five positions; he is 6' 10" and can easily guard a center or a small guard.

Simmons is eighth in defensive rating, ninth in defensive win shares and 13th in defensive box plus/minus. He also led the league in steals last season and is averaging the most steals per game amongst any player on this list.

Also, Read: NBA 2020-21: 5 teams that have surprised the most this season.

Published 30 Mar 2021, 22:01 IST
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