The 2021-22 NBA season was so amazing, that we are getting impatient waiting for the next season to start.
There are still a few NBA Finals games left – you find the best NBA Championship odds here. At this rate, it looks like it will go to seven games.
If you are looking for a little bit of distraction from the long wait, then you have come to the right place. We can offer that by looking back at some of the amazing defensive players this season treated us to.
#5 – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
In a typical year, you would expect Antetokounmpo to be at the top of this list or at least in second place. The fact that he is 5th is no reflection on his skill as a player and shows you how competitive this year has really been.
Giannis won Defensive Player of the Year two years ago and has been an All-Star captain multiple times. In many areas, he is leading in the stats again this year. However, perhaps in the eyes of many commentators, we have become blind to how good he really is.
This year he clocked up an average of 11.5 defensive rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks per 75 possessions. Those are numbers that most other players in the league could only dream of.
When he is on the pitch, the Bucks give up 5.6 fewer points per possession than they do while he is on the bench.
#4 – Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns had an incredible regular season but they will be disappointed with how their playoffs campaign went. Many bookies had them down to win this year and they crashed out pretty early.
The Suns have a really solid defense, possibly one of the best in the league right now. It is absolutely packed full of great players who do their job day in and day out. When a unit works that well together it is hard to pick out a single star – but Mikal Bridges has been a reliable player for the team all year.
There is a reason they call him The Warden.
Bridges was named second overall in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, for good reason. His teammates, his coaches, and the Suns’ fans can’t sing his praises enough. He is still a young player and we are excited to see him only get better as the years go on.
#3 – Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, when people look back on this NBA era he will be one of the ones they remember.
What has been holding him back this year? Well, it’s mostly the fact that he is working a lot harder than most other defensive players out there because the Jazz does not have the depth to back him up.
Were he playing in a defensive unit like the Suns then we could see him doing some incredible things.
That being said, on his own, Gobert allows 107.5 points per 100 possessions, and the whole of the Suns’ defense allows 107.5 points per 100 possessions.* This man is a defensive machine. Let’s hope the Jazz get him some backup in the Draft this year.
#2 – Robert Williams III, Boston Celtics
Our top two this year are both from the same team, this is very rare – but it just goes to show that they are doing something right in their Boston camp.
This year Williams racked up 7.2 defensive rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals per 75 possessions. That was after quite a serious injury at the start of the season too.
Williams is blessed to be on a strong defensive team, but he has more than earned his place there. This year he has set personal bests in every category. The team lets in 5 fewer points per 100 possessions when Williams is on the pitch.
#1 – Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Finally, let’s talk about Marcus Smart, the man of the hour, the 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year.
Not only did Smart and Williams have a great season, but the Celtics have gone on to have an unexpectedly good playoff as well. Now only the Golden State Warriors stand between then and the team’s 18th title.
We wouldn’t want to predict which team will win, but what we can say is that Smart will be giving his all.
The last time a guard was given this award was in 1996. Many thought Smart wouldn’t get it this year because it is so hard for Guards to stand out compared to Centers and the Power Forwards.
Smart has been putting in an incredible performance as Guard for the Celtics for years now, and we are happy to see his talents finally being recognized.