Besides the Most Valuable Player honor, the Defensive Player of the Year award is arguably the most important individual recognition the NBA hands out. After all, not every player is called upon to create offense for their team, but everybody has to defend.
Whether Kobe Bryant or a sixth-grader on a junior high basketball squad, one must earn the title of a lockdown defender. But the art of defending isn't as simple as keeping your opponent at bay on offense. An elite defender must be able to play help-side effectively, either swat shots or collect steals on a regular basis and boost up team morale with hustle plays.
In the NBA, one would automatically be placed in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation if he filled these qualifications. In a league mostly dominated on the offensive side of the court, quality defenders are rare and very valuable.
When the Washington Wizards drafted Chris Singleton with the 18th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, the franchise was expecting the former Florida State star to immediately contribute in a positive manner on the defensive side of the court. That, however, was just not the case.
The 22-year-old small forward was beaten off the dribble on somewhat of a regular basis, not living up to the rather large hype. Singleton did show flashes of brilliance, though, which gave the organization the confidence to start him.
Now in his second year, expect Singleton to flourish. While he may not start with the addition of Trevor Ariza, Singleton will be fully acclimated to the NBA lifestyle. This could be a breakout year for the forward.
No guard has ever been able to block shots like Dwyane Wade.
Only listed at 6'4", Wade can elevate and swat shots on a consistent basis, earning him this recognition. Just last year, the future Hall of Famer rejected 1.3 shots per night. Just to put things into perspective, last year's Defensive Player of the Year award recipient Tyson Chandler only averaged 1.4 blocks per contest.
The only thing keeping Wade from becoming a top contender for this honor is the fact that this guard is becoming increasingly injury prone, and his athleticism is on a steady decline.
Nevertheless, expect Wade to continue his dominant blocking ways, barring any physical ailments.
Now that Andre Iguodala is on the Denver Nuggets, his role on offense will most likely be expanded. However, his true contributions come on defense, as he is one of the few players who can say that he physically matches up with LeBron James.
There is no denying the Nuggets can score in bulk, but with the additions of JaVale McGee, who greatly improved in his shots stint on the team last year, Wilson Chandler and Iggy, this team may be a defensive juggernaut.
Plus, the increased exposure that comes with going to an elite team will help bring his stellar defense to the forefront, greatly improving his chances to take home the Defensive Player of the Year award.
A rookie earning an All-Star selection is a rarity, but a first year player taking home the Defensive Player of the Year award would be quite special. Anthony Davis, though, has the tools to achieve this accomplishment.
During his tenure in Kentucky, nobody was blown away by his scoring ability. Instead, general managers were falling in love with his defense, particularly his ability to swat shots.
The 6'10" lanky power forward blocked 4.7 balls per night, an incredible feat. If Davis comes anywhere close to this total next year, he will run away with this award.
When Tyson Chandler won the award last season, most of the NBA community was shocked. Both Serge Ibaka and Dwight Howard were considered favorites to take home the honors, but the New York Knicks center ultimately won the sweepstakes.
Nevertheless, Chandler is the only legitimate big man defensive stopper on a team with the biggest market in the NBA, which will keep him in contention this season once again.
If Chandler escapes the injury plague that has been killing the Knicks, he might just recapture this title.
It would be a disservice to not put Dwight Howard on a best defenders list. However, the new Los Angeles Lakers star thinks a wrong has actually been committed:
"I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you," Howard said, as reported by Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Devine. "I was a little bit upset about that...I felt like I did my job to win it. I also feel like I didn't because of the whole situation."
Howard is, of course, referring to the distraction stemming from his dissatisfaction with the Orlando Magic. Nevertheless, Howard will try to prove critics wrong, going for his fourth DPOY award.
Just take a look at the following statistics:
Ibaka rejected 3.7 balls per contest.
Last season, Ibaka (241) had more blocks than Dwight Howard (116) and Andrew Bynum (116) combined.
Last year's runner-up in block shots was DeAndre Jordan, who swatted more than 100 fewer shots than the Oklahoma City Thunder big man.
He did all of these incredible feats in less than 28 minutes of action per game.
Ibaka, who is only 23 years old, should be the favorite to take home the Defensive Player of the Year award.