April 22, 2010
This year, I got votes.
I won't say how or why, but save for a couple of examples that I will point out as this series moves along, my votes for the NBA's end of season awards count this year. And because one should never cast a vote that they're unable to defend, I'm going to be transparent and list each of my picks for the awards I voted on. Have at me in the comments, and in our Wednesday chats, where I answer questions from all comers.
Today, the Defensive Player of the Year.
By March, or even February, this was a foregone conclusion.
Dwight Howard(notes) changes games. He changes a team's offensive game plan before it even has the chance to hit the floor, and then once the ball goes up, Howard changes shots. He changes plays, he changes the arc on a shot taken within his vicinity, and he changes the chances a team has at a second shot should it escape his grasp and carom off the rim. No other player in the NBA changes things, defensively, as much as Dwight Howard. No guard, no other big man, no roaming wing. Nobody.
For the second season in a row, yes, Dwight led the NBA in blocks and rebounds. Blocks and defensive rebounds, too, so he's not just padding that bit of prominence with his ferocious tip-dunks. But as impressive as this is, it's the way Dwight shows on screen and rolls, and floats defensively (while still maintaining a home base) that sets him apart.
Because when he doesn't really have anyone to guard, as we saw at times last night against the Bobcats, he really is an 8th grader playing with the 5th grade team. He's the only guy with underarm hair, so to speak. So to gross you out.
And though Dwight started the season slowly, his per-minute block and rebound totals are about the same. And though the Magic have fallen off slightly defensively, it's not because of Dwight. The man's been a beast, as is his custom, and he's a rightful Defensive Player of the Year.
Though Anderson's numbers (1.8 combined block/steals in only 28.5 minutes per game, 7.6 rebounds) aren't huge, his ability to cover on screen and roll and support from the weak side goes almost unmatched in this league, with the exception of the man who received my first place vote.
And since he's dramatically cut down on the flopping, which hurt the Cavaliers toward the end of last season, Anderson has gotten more calls, nearly as many charges, and worked as a destructive force for a Cavs team that often needs a little help from the weak side.
Third place? I found it hard to leave Gerald Wallace(notes) behind. There are plenty of sound candidates for this spot, and while Andrew Bogut(notes) would have taken it had he not missed two bits of the season due to injury in April and November, Wallace is a sound choice.
Less roaming this year for Crash, but his ability to shut people down one-on-one helped the Charlotte Bobcats lead the NBA in defensive efficiency. He also added 10 rebounds and a combined 2.6 blocks/steals (in 41 minutes per game) for good measure.