Rudy Gobert Named 2020-21 NBA Defensive Player of the Year over Ben Simmons

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2021

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) blocks the shot of Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, becoming the fourth player in league history to win the award three times.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Rudy Gobert is the 2020-21 DPOY 👏 He’s only the 4th player in NBA history to win the award three times. https://t.co/4HUFDKaFun

Gobert beat out Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green to nab top defensive honors. 

NBA Communications @NBAPR

This is the third NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for Rudy Gobert. He is the fourth player to win the award at least three times, joining Dikembe Mutombo (four), Ben Wallace (four) and Dwight Howard (three). More ➡️ https://t.co/63VBakX4xU Full voting results ⬇️ https://t.co/Cmv6yR3SnC

Gobert joins Dwight Howard, Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo among players with at least three DPOYs to their name since the inception of the award in 1982-83. Mutombo and Wallace are tied for the most in NBA history with four.

Gobert averaged 14.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game while continuing to act as the defensive fulcrum for a Jazz team that went an NBA-best 52-20 during the regular season. Opponents shot 48 percent inside six feet when he guarded them, which is 14.6 percent better than the league average for defenders, per NBA.com.

The Jazz defense was also 11.9 points better per 100 possessions with him on the floor, per NBA.com.

"To me, it's about impact. It's about how much impact you can have on the court and how much impact we can have on your teammates," Gobert said, per Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. "And at the end of the day, how much impact you can have on your team and on the other team. It's not about being cute. It's not about looking good. It's not about narratives. It's not about having a big name. It's about coming out every single night, trying to grind defensively and have that impact on the game."

Gobert has emerged as one of the best defensive centers in NBA history. Some have continued to question his true impact as an overall defender, given he does not have the switchability of Simmons or even Myles Turner.

Simmons even lobbied on The Jump for the DPOY after torching Gobert for 42 points earlier this season. 

"I'm one of those guys who can guard 1 through 5," Simmons said. "Obviously, there's a lot of respect for Rudy. I know what he's capable of. I know he's great down there in the paint, but he's not guarding everybody and that's just what it is. He guarded me in Utah ... I had 42 and apparently I'm not a scorer. It is what it is, but I have a lot of respect for him. At the same time, I think it's mine this year."

In the end, voters continued a years-long trend of favoring bigs over guards in voting. Twenty-six of the 38 Defensive Player of the Year winners have been centers.