With the regular season is over, and the real season about to begin, the Chasing 23 writing team will be revealing their 2011 NBA Awards picks in advance of the actual announcement.
First up: Defensive Player Of The Year.
THE NBA REALIST: Dwight Howard
Since the Defensive Player of the Year award began in 1983, only 7 out of 28 recipients have been non-bigs which demonstrates the direction that the media typically likes to vote. Moreover, in years past, voters could choose from greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, and David Robinson. However, in the era of small-ball , the new Defensive 3-second rule has opened up the paint, Centers want to play like Guards, and shot blocking has all but disappeared. The great defensive bigs are no more. Dwight Howard has been fantastic and is certainly worthy of this award, but the fact remains that he is the only game in town. Howard wins by default – and there isn’t even a close second.
Honorable Mention: Andre Iguodala
BROWN MAMBA: Dwight Howard:
It’s hard to believe that the NBA’s reigning Superman is only 25 years old and in his 7th season, but he has clearly cemented his place as one of the great defensive players of this generation. The 2010-11 campaign only served to reinforce this notion, as Howard finished with a freakish defensive line (14rpg/2.4bpg/1.3spg) while impacting the vast majority of Magic defensive possessions . Howard did all of this while playing with a collection of some of the worst defensive players in the NBA (yes you, Gilbert Arenas and Helo Turkoglu). Andrew Bogut, is my somewhat distant runner-up, posting respectable stats (11.1rpg/2.6bpg/0.7spg) on a better-than-expected Bucks defensive squad.
DAVE SHERIDAN: Dwight Howard
Let’s keep the suspense to a minimum and acknowledge that Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is the landslide winner of this prestigious award, which has been given to the likes of Mark Eaton, Dennis Rodman, Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace. Unlike the aforementioned recipients, Dwight Howard does possess an offensive game that has enabled Sheridan’s Defensive Player of the Year to average 23.0 ppg.
Howard blocks shots (2.4 per game) and grabs rebounds (14.1 rpg) at prolific levels, but let’s examine the Magic’s defensive efficiency rating, which measures the amount of points a team gives up per 100 possessions. Orlando is ranked third in the NBA, and the Magic clearly do not possess the collective defensive talent showcased by the Bulls, Celtics or Heat.
Orlando’s fourth place finish, in the Eastern Conference, is testament to Howard’s ability to anchor a defense that has been saddled with defensive liabilities such as Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson. (Surprisingly, Hedo Turkoglu ranks as a pretty good defender.)
Orlando’s Superman leaps tall buildings, swats shots, has trouble at the free-throw line, gets nailed with a prodigious amount of technical fouls, isn’t best buddies with Boston’s Shaquille O’Neal or Kevin Garnett, but is unquestionably the best defensive player in the game.
Did You Know?: Since the NBA Defensive Player of the Year originated in 1983, only two players born outside of the United States have captured the award. Those two players would be Dikembe Mutombo (Zaire which is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria).
MARCAS GRANT: Dwight Howard
His defensive numbers are strong enough by themselves to win him the award for the third straight season, averaging more than 14 rebounds and nearly 2.5 blocks per game. When you factor in that Howard is carrying an even larger portion of the offense (he’s averaging career highs in shots and points per game), his defensive contributions become that much more impressive.
E-DOG: Dwight Howard
Andre Iguodala was the best perimeter defender in the league this year, but Howard gets the nod for single-handedly keeping Orlando’s team defense respectable while being surrounded by semi-sieves or sieves everywhere else in the lineup. Imagine if he could learn to avoid racking up techs. This would be his 3rd consecutive DPOY award, and considering that he’s still just 25, I think it’s safe to say that he will soon own more of these than anyone else.
Honorable Mention: Andre Iguodala
Dwight Howard: 5 votes.