Top 5 Defensive Player of the Year candidates for 2022-23 NBA season, featuring Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and more 

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers
Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers

The Defensive Player of the Year race is likely to be intense this coming season. Over the years, traditional big men have had a stranglehold on the award. Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart changed that trend with some terrific performances last season, helping his team to the No. 1 spot in defensive rating.

A few guards and forwards could be in the mix again, but early projections favor the power forwards and centers.

Some top candidates have struggled to stay healthy over the years, which has proved to be a stumbling block in their bid to claim the honors. Fans will be hoping these players are healthy for long stretches, as that will spice things up in the DPOY race.

On that note, let's take a look at the early projections for the top five candidates for the 2022-23 NBA season's Defensive Player of the Year award.

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#1 Rudy Gobert

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert is a perennial candidate in the Defensive Player of the Year race. He has won the award thrice in his career, most recently in the 2020-21 season.

The Timberwolves went all in to trade for Gobert this season. They desperately needed to shore up their defense and managed to do just that by acquiring Gobert.

With an experienced player like Gobert anchoring the team's defense, Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Edwards could also have a bigger impact.

Rudy Gobert remains one of the best rim protectors and shot-blockers around the league, having averaged over two blocks per game for the last eight seasons.

The three-time All-Star copped criticism this past season for his performances and will be hoping to silence his doubters with some strong displays.

#2 Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo is among the few players in the league who take pride in being a defensive stalwart. The Miami Heat star can guard one through five.

Despite being comparatively undersized as a center, Adebayo has matched up efficiently against most bigs in the league, making him a solid interior defender. He can also move quickly, allowing him to guard smaller players on the perimeter. Not all bigs excel at that.

With the Heat losing P.J. Tucker this summer, Bam Adebayo may have to shoulder extra responsibility on the defensive end, especially against top teams. It could help him in his bid to win his maiden DPOY award.

#3 Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is among the top defensive players in the NBA, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy over the last two seasons. He came close to winning the award during his first year (2019-20) with the LA Lakers, which was also his last truly healthy season.

Davis has been a monster on defense every time he has been in action in the past two years. The former No. 1 pick has fared well against players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.

The Lakers have shown improvement defensively in their three preseason games under new coach Darvin Ham. With adequate support on the perimeter, Anthony Davis could excel.

AD looks in tremendous shape at the moment, so if he can stay fit, he should be in contention to win his first Defensive Player of the Year award.

#4 Robert Williams III

Robert Williams III was a vital cog in the Boston Celtics' wheel last season. Williams averaged a career-high 9.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. He is expected to play an even more prominent role next season.

This will be his fifth season, so one can expect him to make massive strides and help the Celtics retain their No. 1 defensive rating.

#5 Giannis Antetokounmpo

The award's recipient in 2020, Giannis Antetokounmpo is another perennial NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Arguably the best player in the league right now, Antetokounmpo excels on both ends of the floor.

Antetokounmpo has averaged at least 10 rebounds, a steal and a block over the last five seasons and has often taken up the assignment of guarding the opposition's best player.

After failing to lead the Bucks to the title last season, Giannis could have a chip on his shoulder. If he maintains his level of play, he will be among the frontrunners for the MVP and DPOY awards.

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Edited by Arhaan Raje
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