In the lead-up to the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will be rolling out predictions for each end of season award.
Today, we're focusing on Defensive Player of the Year.
Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert has won the award in back-to-back seasons. If he's voted as the league's best defender again this season, he'll become only the second player in NBA history to win the award in three consecutive seasons, the other being Dwight Howard.
Will Gobert make history or can someone else beat him out for the award?
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Anthony Davis gets my vote.
Davis wasn't a finalist for the award last season, but he finished in third place behind Gobert and Joel Embiid in 2017-18. He led the league in blocks for the third time in his career that season and made the All-Defensive First Team for the first time.
I'm expecting that version of Davis to show up for the Lakers this season and for Los Angeles to turn into one of the best defensive teams in the league because of it. The Lakers enter the season with one of the oldest rosters in the league, but they have the makings of an top-10 defence, starting with Davis and extending to the likes of Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and LeBron James.
If they do indeed crack the top-10 and look like the title contender everyone is expecting them to be, Davis will receive a lot of credit for it.
It helps that Davis wants to be the Defensive Player of the Year. There's no denying that he has the potential to win the award, so him being locked-in all season could be what puts him over the edge.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I sense a three-peat on the horizon for Rudy Gobert.
He's much more than just an elite backline defender, but Gobert's ability to influence the game on the defensive end is matched by very few in the league.
In fact, Gobert's defensive impact is so great, NBA.com has tabbed him as the league's third-best centre and the 12th best player in the NBA.
This season, the motivation to receive his seemingly-elusive first All-Star nod coupled with Utah's opportunity to boast a top-five defence in the league once again while legitimately contending for the top spot in the Western Conference, Gobert could get even more credit than he has in year's past.
With his defence serving as the anchor, Gobert receiving appropriate credit would likely mean he adds another Defensive Player of the Year award to his trophy case.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): I'm going a little off the beaten path and rolling with Marcus Smart.
It's an uphill battle especially considering the simple fact that guards just flat out don't win Defensive Player of the Year. It's only happened six times, most recently Gary Payton in 1995-96.
Coincidentally, there's a little bit of The Glove in Smart's game. An All-Defensive selection a year ago, Smart has the pedigree and is widely regarded as one of the best defensive guards, if not THE best, in the league.
The reason I'm going Smart is in some ways due to what's around him in Boston and the opportunity it presents to craft a narrative. And when it comes to awards, people love them some narratives!
The Celtics project to have one of the worst defensive frontcourts we've seen in quite some time, at least from a team that projects to make the playoffs. It's hard to overstate how big of a deal it is defensively to go from Al Horford to Enes Kanter, not to mention the loss of Aron Baynes. As we saw for some stretches with Team USA at the FIBA World Championships, there's a world in which Smart actually gets some burn defending centers and power forwards. And yes, I'm fully aware of the fact that he's 6-foot-4.
Throw in the fact that Kemba Walker isn't exactly an all-world defender himself and it's easy to see how Smart will essentially be putting out fires all over the floor from start to finish.
If Brad Stevens is able to scheme Boston to a top-10 finish in defence, it will be largely a result of Smart's incredible ability to guard almost anyone and routinely punch up weight classes.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm going with Anthony Davis.
He didn't play enough games last season to receive real consideration for the award, but his 2.4 blocks per game would have ranked No. 2 in the NBA and his 1.6 steals per game would have ranked just inside the top-10. He's one of the best rim protectors in the league and has no trouble switching onto anyone on the perimeter, using his length, athleticism and defensive IQ to make up for minor mismatches against quicker guards.
As Scott said, the Lakers have the pieces to be a top-10 defence - Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and LeBron James are all great defenders and with Davis anchoring that unit, he'll get plenty of consideration as the best defender in the NBA.
If the Lakers are one of the best defensive teams in the league and AD ranks among the top-10 in both steals and blocks per game again this season, he'll certainly be in consideration for the award. The fact that he wants to win Defensive Player of the Year puts this prediction in sharpie for me.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): I'm picking Rudy Gobert to make history.
For the most part, the team with the DPOY frontrunner is among the league's best defensive teams in the league. Given the roster turnover, that probably eliminates Anthony Davis from contention as it would take a lot out of the veteran-heavy Lakers to be among the top 10 defensive teams in the leagues.
Paul George is set to miss a majority of the first month of the 2019-20 regular season and we aren't sure at what level he will be at when he returns. Kawhi Leonard, with load management, might not be a challenger for this award.
Joel Embiid could be a threat as well, but once again, the 76ers have seen a lot of change and even with their roster from last season, Philadelphia were only the 14th-best defensive team. Giannis Antetokounmpo is probably the only legitimate competitor to the Frenchman's title.
Adding Mike Conley Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz have only strengthened their perimeter defensively. There isn't any particular reason why Gobert can't three-peat. He's playing under the same system and with almost the same roster.
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