He is one of the league’s toughest on-the-ball defenders — the type of guy every contending team needs on its roster to sic on the opposing team’s best scorer.
Lindsay Hunter made a living out of it for years. So did Bruce Bowen.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Milwaukee Bucks has joined that select group, and Andre Iguodala has made his mark in the NBA and internationally (on the 2010 version of Team USA) for his ability to stop opposing scorers.
When I polled a couple of NBA coaches via text message over the weekend to ask for their best on-the-ball defenders, the only name on every coach’s list was Indiana’s Paul George.
I raise the subject because I am voting this season for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year (along with the other major awards), and I want this site’s readers to make a case for someone who they feels merits consideration.
The award typically goes to a player who has led the league in blocks or steals, because those are the NBA’s two main defensive-minded statistics — and voters on this award often reward stats over the ability to force stops.
As columnist Moke Hamilton pointed out in making the case that Tyson Chandler is deserving of the award, altered shots can be just as important as blocked shots, and a vocal team leader who can change a team’s defensive mindset is entirely impossible to quantify with numbers.
Shawn Marion has defended every position this season, as has LeBron James. They are cast in the mold of Bowen, who never won the award.
In fact, the last two pure on-the-ball defenders to win the award were Ron Artest of Indiana in 2003-04, and Gary Payton of Seattle in 1995-96.
Dwight Howard has taken home the last three DPOY awards, Ben Wallace won four times in five years from 2001-02 until 2005-06, and Dikembe Mutombo won it four times in seven years from 1994-95 through 2000-01.
There is little doubt in my mind that Serge Ibaka of Oklahoma City is going to be the winner this year mainly for his shot-blocking prowess. He is averaging 3.69 blocks per game, the highest total by an NBA player since Theo Ratliff averaged 3.74 for the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers.
Ibaka is going to be on my ballot (I won’t tell you exactly where until Friday, when I reveal all my votes), but I wanted to give readers the opportunity to make an intelligent case for someone else who should be considered.
The comments section is open, so have at it, folks.