Defensive Player of the Year remains one of the most prestigious end of season awards.
With it comes one of the longest trends in the game, with big men feasting in the voting despite the league becoming more perimeter-based.
Remarkably, the last guard to win Defensive Player of the year was Gary Payton in...1995-96!
Which begs the question: Who could be the next guard to break the drought and claim Defensive Player of the Year honours?
Big man dominance of DPOY
|Tyson Chandler||New York Knicks (2012)|
|Marc Gasol||Memphis Grizzlies (2013)|
|Joakim Noah||Chicago Bulls (2014)|
|Kawhi Leonard||San Antonio Spurs (2015)|
|Kawhi Leonard||San Antonio Spurs (2016)|
|Draymond Green||Golden State Warriors (2017)|
|Rudy Gobert||Utah Jazz (2018)|
|Rudy Gobert||Utah Jazz (2019)|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks (2020)|
|Rudy Gobert||Utah Jazz (2020)|
Over the last decade true centers like Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gobert have claimed the award, while versatile forwards in Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo have also got their hands on the trophy.
Out of that bunch, only Leonard is not considered as a five in modern-day small-ball switchable lineups.
During the Milwaukee Bucks NBA Championship push, Jrue Holiday solidified his reputation as one of the...if not the premiere guard defender in the league. Taking turns to defend Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Trae Young, Chris Paul and Devin Booker in the Bucks long-awaited championship run.
Speaking on the recent 'Old Man and the Three' podcast', J.J Redick asked Holiday if he believes he is the best defender in the NBA.
"Yeah, I always have," Holiday responded with a smile.
"No question. I'm not really the type to tell people that. I want people to form their own opinion."
Named to the All-Defensive first team in 2021, Holiday delivered one of the most iconic plays of the NBA Finals, stripping Devin Booker to open up a transition lob to Antetokounmpo to help the Bucks clinch Game 5 on the road.
Jrue's steal. Jrue's eyes.- NBA (@NBA) July 18, 2021
Giannis' slam. Giannis' reaction.#PhantomCam #ThatsGame pic.twitter.com/AwqeiomJNf
Holiday was utterly dominant defensively during the postseason, but part of the complicating factor when assessing his chances of winning DPOY is of course the fact he plays alongside Antetokounmpo - the 2020 winner of the award.
|Rudy Gobert||Utah Jazz||464|
|Ben Simmons||Philadelphia 76ers||287|
|Draymond Green||Golden State Warriors||76|
|Bam Adebayo||Miami Heat||31|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||12|
While Holiday's role is more predominantly matchup based, Antetokounmpo is often times unleashed as one of the most deadly off-ball defenders in the world, soaring in for simply unexplainable weakside blocks.
The second conundrum when it comes to identifying defensive dominance is the unlimited range and shooting ability of players in the league that shows no signs of slowing down.
It's perfectly feasible to suggest a player like Holiday could have an excellent night defending Steph Curry and still concede 35 points. There's only so much you can do.
Other guards that could find themselves in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year honours include Ben Simmons and Marcus Smart, with the pair consistently defending across multiple positions.
Simmons finished second in voting in 2021 and has been first team All-Defence in each of the last two campaigns. From guarding Damian Lillard one night to Antetokounmpo the next, the Australian is arguably the most versatile defender in the league and the most likely to break the drought for guards.
Smart is another two-time first team All-Defence guard, and for the first time in his career projects to start from opening night with Kemba Walker being traded from the franchise.
MATISSE THYBULLE!- ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) June 21, 2021
Steal and SLAM from the Aussie 🔥 pic.twitter.com/sgp0Q2Hn01
What about Matisse Thybulle?
The Sixers guard picked up a third-place vote in 2021 despite the fact he only played 20 minutes per game. The 24-year-old made the most of his time on the floor, finishing with 1.6 steals and 1.1 block per game while causing general chaos where ever he went.
You can make the case that if Simmons does indeed move on from Philadelphia it will result in more court time for Thybulle which would likely launch his name to near the top of the list for contenders.
When Payton won the award in 1996 the average number of 3-point attempts per game was 16.0. By 2021, it had skyrocketed to 34.6 per game.
Defending on the perimeter has never been more difficult, but perhaps it's time for a guard to take home the trophy. Holiday certainly appears to believe so.
"Defence is a real thing in the NBA. I do feel people should be rewarded for defence. Making good plays on the defensive end, stops against some of the best players in the world."
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