Defensive Player Of The Year: Marc Gasol

The Grizzlies' Marc Gasol (by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol (by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The blocked shot.

The swat of the basketball off the gargantuan hand of an immovable object standing 6-foot-10 or -11 — or even towering over 7 feet — is the most spectacular defensive play in the game, and easily the most appreciable.

We can see a blocked shot. We can hear it by the oohs and ahhs from the crowd. We know the result. We can measure its impact in fastbreaks. We can tabulate it. So it’s easy to want to judge the league’s best defensive player by how many swats he has. If he’s blocking a lot of shots, he must be a tremendous defender.

But there’s much more to defense than blocking shots, which is why Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, an improving all-around player to be sure, won’t win the Defensive Player of the Year award despite being well on his way to leading the league in blocks for a second consecutive season.

Ibaka finished second in DPOY voting last season, largely on the strength of his impressive shot-blocking, behind Knicks center Tyson Chandler, who ended Dwight Howard’s three-year reign while finishing tied for 17th in blocked shots.

There will again be a new defensive champion this season, and the pick here is Marc Gasol, the burly, 7-foot-1 center and anchor of the Memphis Grizzlies, who have the stingiest defense in the NBA.

Gasol’s closest competition for the award may come from within his division from the apparently ageless Tim Duncan. The San Antonio Spurs’ All-Star once more has been a rock. If you want to talk blocked shots, Duncan is swatting 2.7 per game, his highest mark in a decade. He’s also on the cusp of averaging double-digit rebounds (he’s at 9.9 a game) for the first time since the 2009-10 season, a feat he accomplished in each of his first 13 seasons.

The Chicago Bulls’ energetic Joakim Noah and the runaway MVP candidate LeBron James are also in the blue-collar defensive mix. James, who plays everywhere on the floor from point guard to power forward, has become the one non-center (or center-like player) candidate to make an annual run at a traditionally big man’s award.

The 265-pound Gasol ranks 12th in blocks per game (1.74) and is tied for 10th in total blocks with 136 (entering Monday’s games), one fewer than Charlotte’s Bismack Biyombo. So be it.

What a blocked shot total doesn’t reveal is the number of shots a properly positioned defender alters or prevents altogether. Gasol, hardly the quickest or most athletic center in the game, might be the most intuitive, and his ability to read, react, recover and make the right play is second to none.

Gasol’s 7.8 rebounds per game are bit on the low side considering he averages 35.2 minutes a game. But teammate Zach Randolph (11.2 rpg) cleans up a lot of the boards on plenty of shots Gasol goads into clanking off the rim or backboard.

“He anchors the defense, he talks in the back, he recognizes what’s going on that the other team is doing  to us,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “He’s also pretty decent in pick-and-roll, going to help, and knowing when to double, when to stay home. He just has good basketball instincts and that carries over offensively and defensively as well. Probably a lot of guys are deserving, probably guys that are quicker than him, more athletic than him, but what he does for us, it works.”

His defensive rating is an excellent 95.5. Since the All-Star break it’s been significantly lower at 92.2, a stretch that the Grizzlies have gone 21-8.

The Grizzlies allow just 89.4 points a game, the lone team to limit opposing offenses to less than 90, a mark they’ve upheld despite roster upheaval caused by the Rudy Gay trade. Memphis ranks third in overall field-goal percentage defense (43.7), second in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (33.7), fourth in allowing fewest assists, fourth in creating turnovers and sixth in allowing the fewest free-throw attempts per game.

Memphis’ excellent team defense begins with rigorous perimeter defenders Mike Conley and Tony Allen. But it’s the burly Gasol — the anchor, the quarterback or what have you — that keeps the entire thing on a string.

The other candidates:

Tim Duncan — He’s had a remarkable 16th NBA season and, interestingly, the oldest player on the Spurs appears to be the healthiest as San Antonio heads into the postseason with plenty of uncertainty. Duncan has been key in the Spurs’ improved overall team defense, which ranks in the top 10 in points allowed, field-goal percentage defense and 3-point field-goal percentage defense.

LeBron James — What’s a smallish perimeter player to do when he’s got the ball and a the 6-foot-9, 250-pound James attacks on a double-team? James is almost  inarguably the greatest two-way player in the game. He can guard any position with relentless aggression and when he traps up top, his size and quickness are daunting.

Joakim Noah — It’s a shame he’s played in only 64 of the Bulls’ 80 games — the same number he played during last season’s 66-game schedule — because he’s that good and mostly because he makes watching defense incredibly fun. As they say, his motor never stops. He’s lunging, jumping, leaping or diving somewhere at all times to grab the basketball. His rebounding is at a career-best 11.4 a game, up nearly two from last season.


  1. Bradley over Gasol says:

    I will take Bradley any day over Marc Gasol, even two Marc Gasols smfh

  2. Nayyab says:

    One Name
    Avery Bradley, Hands down,
    Best on ball defender period!

  3. DENAI9 says:

    The only guys that should be nominated for DPOY is Joakim Noah, Avery Bradley, Serge Ibaka, Paul George, Larry Sanders, and Andre Igoudala. I dont know why people keep saying LeBron James, he is the best player in the NBA, but he is not a defensive juggernaut.

  4. nbafan says:


  5. Bradley, Bradley, Bradley!!!

  6. Rajours that! says:

    Gotta be Timmy Duncan this year. He’s an old man but he knows the way he play for his age. Smart old man and his best record for his 16th year in the nba.

  7. ene be a says:

    Lebron james is the defense player of the year, and he was last year and he is going to be next year. And he’s the only non-center top 10 in FG % this year. The MVP whitout questions even if melo has played the entire season whitout ingury.

    Now let’s see the heat win multiple championship for a decade.

    • Chris says:

      He’s also the most improved player, 6th man , coach of the year and all spots on both All-NBA teams and Defensive teams right? While we’re at it, let’s just hand him the trophy and finals MVP before the playoffs start too!

  8. ene be a says:

    Lebron james is the defense player of the year, and he was last year and he is going to be next year. And he’s the only non-center top 10 in FG % this year. The MVP whitout questions even if melo has played the entire season whitout ingury.

  9. Mark says:

    where’s larry sanders

  10. ene be a says:

    Lebron james is the defense player of the year, and he was last year and he is going to be next year.

  11. Samboyle says:

    You people no nothing about ball, not cause im a die hard Bulls fan. Noah averages more reobounds, blocks, and steals then Gasol or anyone whose mentioned for that matter. Gasol cant guard multiple positions as Noah or his he the perimeter defender that Noah is, Gasol not even on Noah’s level period. Gasol not even a better defender than Taj Gigson. Y’all keep talking bout Iggy, SMH hes not a better wing defender then Deng, Jimmie Butler, Tony Allen, Nicolas Batum, Avery Bradley,

  12. Mark says:

    265 POUND GASOL? TRY 285+

  13. SL2H says:

    Just watch this people:

  14. SL2H says:

    Andre Iguodala should be DPOY. He shuts down the studs of this league. He takes on the “SUPERSTARS/SCORERS” of every team and shuts them down. He dominates defensively. Marc Gasol is not a good shot blocker or rebounder. Iguodala has been dedicated to defense for all of his career. He should be recognized for it.

  15. Raptors-Aussie says:

    Are you all forgetting about Larry Sanders? C’mon now, the guy is a beast in the paint!

  16. stan todo says:

    man pick for defensive player sux balls . trully. Mark Gasol ??? they guy barely moves around the court, and he just gets a few blocks. He has an amazing defensive team whcih he doesnt do so much for. REALLYY OMG.
    Lebron and Igudala are sooo much better defensive players. I hate how the league looks only at the dumb stats of blocks. Are you kidding me ?? Thats not the defence, they are centers, they block shots. DUHHHH. I mean if they got like 5 blocks per game avg, than ok but they got 2. Look at how the other players perform vs a certain players defence and than rate him. Mark Gasol doesnt really make other Centers stats go down. He just makes a couple blocks to 6.2 point guards diving in the paint. Wow how bad is this choice.

  17. SaYO says:

    lmao? WHAT?!!@?@#?!@%?$#@Q#W?T$#@?^? noah shoulda won it
    gasol not even close

  18. number8fromtheunknowns says:

    RUSSELL WESTBROOK 4 DPOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




  19. babilicious says:

    what about Kostas Koufos guys?he’s been so efficient this year and he’s the first choice among other good defensive players in Denver aka the best team in the league..

  20. Jonathon says:

    Avery Bradley??? he’s brilliant on ball.

  21. chonun says:

    big spain all the way for dpoy.

  22. jacob says:

    if you watched memphis play this year you would know that marc gasol and tony allen are two of the best in the league. they are the reason memphis wins games

  23. wooderson says:

    is this a joke? are the NBA in bed with marc gasol? first of all there is no way he is defensive player of the year over some of the elite parimeter defenders! and secondly, andrew bogut averaged the most block shots, took charges, lead from the front and was far and away the best defensive player in the NBA a few years ago i think it was 09-10 or 10-11 and he lost out the tyson freaking chandler!!!!! it saddens me so much that the NBA is becoming such a joke

  24. Pegils says:

    It should be Bradley when he came back from injury bostons defence increased ridiculously.

  25. Pierce says:

    I would absolutely love to see a perimeter player win it this year: Lebron, George, Allen, Iguodala, Bradley

  26. spin says:

    i stopped watching european basketball. If marc gasol gets it i will stop watching nba too and move to san antonio to watch Chinese basketball

  27. Avery Bradley-why do you not even mention him, he has to be in the conversation! It’s not just about blocks. It’s even more about a defensive player changing the way an opposing offense runs their offense & how many players can do that-0-!!! At least not as good or the way he does it. Next few years he should def be atop defensive player of the year conversation!!! Go Bradley!!!

  28. rank says:

    it should be TIM DUNCAN!

  29. Corden says:

    This guy didn’t even mention Avery Bradley? What a joke.

  30. johnybeat209 says:

    He deserves this award, what a great player. Go grizzlies

  31. john says:


    NUMBER 2 AT THE DPOY is gasol then howard…

    GO LBJ…

  32. Big Locks says:

    Can we get a vote for Norris Cole after pwning Uncle Drew last night?

  33. asdfghj says:

    Avery Bradley is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay underrated.

  34. Andrew W says:

    LBJ, Iggy, Tony Allen, Joakim —— nah……………….

    Marc Gasol is THE ONLY PLAYER TO DEFEND A PLAY WITH A SHOE IN HAND. no one else on the nomination list did that

  35. Jayness says:

    Also another way to gauge this is…if you were to switch Dwight Howard with any of the players mentioned (I.e., Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Loul Deng, Andre Iguodala) all those teams would become better at defines. This means, that Dwight Howard seriously needs to be considered for this award. He is not even my favourite centre but come on people we can’t doubt his defensive skill and dominance.

  36. Soltero32 says:

    Marc is the best deffender on the league. He has the body and the IQ. Much of the rebounds he doesnt pick are gifts to Randolph. Gasol is not particularly interested in stats, but the fact is that he is the franchise player of Memphis.

    I would like to see an hybrid with Pau offense skills and Marc deffending hability. How can they be brothers and be so different???

  37. Jayness says:


    How is Dwight Howard not even considered in this conversation?

    1: He only leads the NBA again in rebounds.
    2. He did all this with an injury
    3. 5th in blocks per game
    4. 2nd highest field goal percentage in the league (Albeit, this is an offence stat)

    For me Dwight Howard is a leading candidate for this award. Yes, he brought the L.A. drama, but who cares… this dude is just a straight up defensive powerhouse that the fans under appreciate. Even with all his injuries he is still a good head length above everybody else. My second pick would be Larry Sanders…but that is debatable.

  38. fin420 says:

    i totally forgot tony allen lol. yeah hes absolutely in the top 3-4 with lebron george iggy

  39. Thomas says:

    watch this video with coaches talking about iguodala’s great defense.

  40. Mario says:

    No love for the defensive anchor of the best defense in the NBA (Roy Hibbert)? Damn shame.

  41. caliptra says:

    where is Omer Asik!!!
    he is one of the most improved player and 3. rebound collector

  42. specialfriedrice says:

    Tim Duncan…incredible season…this is one award he truly deserves…he has been the rock for the Spurs all year…if he doesn’t get DPOY then he better be honoured with another ALL NBA 1st Team and All Def 1st Team selections…

  43. Jamison says:

    Hey, what about Avery Bradley? Opposing guards shoot 30% when matched up against him. Thats the best in that category, seriously, give him some consideration.

    • Peter says:

      Won’t happen sadly. AB is probably the best perimeter defender in the league – he is close to Dennis Rodman in terms of the impact he has on games on the defensive end of the floor. DPOTY always favours the bigs, but they only make a difference when the ball gets near the basket. Guys like AB make an impact on the game defensively every single time the ball comes up the court.

  44. Guys, guys… do u really think Gasol gives a dime this nomination/prize? He just plays for his team and his impact in the game is as great as invisible for your very well trained eyes. Congrats to burly Marc. By the way, Gasol-Ibaka such a def backcourt for Spain´s National Team in this year s EuroBasket. Gonna be funny…

  45. James says:

    The Grizzlies defense starts with Mark Gasol… but for years he never gets any praise for it.

  46. William Sor says:

    Gasol’s problem is that Tony Allen will take votes from him

  47. Pop Machine says:

    Put Iguodala on the nominees and it’ll all be better. I’m not saying that he should win DPOY, but he deserves to be a candidate. He has always been the best Sixers/Nuggets defender.

  48. Javier says:

    Is about basketball fundamentals that is the reason he pick Gasol, He is helping the other four players with his defense. But Ibaka still there and now he is concentrate shooting from downtown. Is not making a lot of point and let your competitor in 0 points. Is grabing the whole team.

  49. Blind Lemon Pye says:

    Seriously? No Iguodala? He almost single-handedly made the Nuggets’ defense work. If you look at advanced stats, Harden averages like 7 or 8 less points when being guarded by Iguodala. He’s not a stats defensive player, he’s an impact defensive player.

  50. googergieger says:

    It wouldn’t be so terrible that Iguodala gets no recognition as a defensive player of the year canidate if he at least got all defensive team honors. First team that is. The mere fact he never has gotten one and Kobe has constantly been given that honor despite the fact he is a very poor and lazy defender, shows how meaningless and biased these “awards” are. Denver is going to have the fourth best record in all of the NBA this year. Despite the fact they were given the worst schedule in over twenty years, and despite the fact they don’t get super star calls, ever. And you know what? They won’t get one award. They won’t even get nominated. Smh.

  51. Skolimowski says:

    There’s only one possible choice: Joakim Noah. 64 games is not enough reason not to give him the award.

  52. Ray says:

    Iguodala is the reason that the nuggets are the fourth best in the entire NBA. He deserves to be the defensive player of the year as it shows up in the stats not in leading categories but as a collective as his presence puts pressure on the enemies leading scorer and tenacity has allowed other nuggets to hone their defensive skills. He is the reason why this is a record breaking season for the Denver nuggets. You can see that as he became more comfortable in the nuggets style his starts started to go up and his presence became clear the nuggets have only lost four games since the all star break. Iguodala has also been vital in stopping the other team’s scorers in crunch time I.E when he stole the ball from Paul George. I think if Denver was a large market town then there would be no question but sadly the people of Denver like football more and the ones that watch basketball are from California and are fans of the lakers.

  53. Afro-B25 says:

    Luol Deng should be a nominee of as well. This guy leads the league in MPG and play good tough defense on the NBA best players.

    • Peter says:

      Deng’s defense is solid, but grossly overrated.

      One VERY underrated defensive player this season has been Jeff Green. Most people will think I’m insane, but go back and take a look at his defensive ratings, and what he’s done defensively against the top swingmen in the league (Lebron, Durant, Carmello, etc) when he has been on them.

      I guess his team defense still needs improvement, but he might be the best 1-on-1 defender in the league at the SF spot right now.

  54. T. Tukesbrey says:

    Dang, not a mention of Deng.

  55. King Gary says:

    What about some consideration for Avery Bradley . I am not a celtics fan but when I think of one on one defensive his name is the only one that comes to mind when stopping big time players.

  56. devin says:

    avery bradley was a monster on the defensive end and brought the celtics back to the playoff chase when he came back from injury he has an outstanding plus minus defensive ratio to being on the court and not

  57. okc81 says:

    Ibaka’s the best

  58. Big AI says:

    charliemyboy is right, Iguodala may’ve been the most impactful defender on a team this year; he deserves a spot on an All Defensive Team, if not DPOY.

  59. NY Vlad says:

    switch tyson chandler with marc gasol and grizzlies would be even better on D

  60. abc says:

    Two words: Mike Conley

  61. Dig says:

    So, Noah does 3.5! more rebounds per game, more steals, more blocks, and moves twice faster but Gasol is a defensive player?
    Gasol is very good player, top 3 center in NBA but not even top 3 defensive center in NBA because Noah, Chandler & Hibbert are much better.
    I wonder how many games you watched this year.

  62. Big A says:

    I would’t forget to overlook Avery Bradley. He has the ability to stop great shooters such as Stephen Curry and force some of the best ball handlers to turn the ball over.

  63. Kareem says:

    why is tyson chandler not a nominee for DPOY.

    • dattebayo says:

      This ought to be fun. Please make the case why Tyson Chandler should be DPOY, for anchoring a below league average defense. The Knicks are currently ranked DRtg…

  64. dattebayo says:

    Indiana, Memphis and San Antonio have the three best defenses in the league, so Hibbert, Gasol and Duncan have to be in the conversation for DPOY. However, I’d really like to see a perimeter player rewarded, because the league has changed so much. The best scorers are almost exclusively perimeter players nowadays, so Iggy, BronBron or PG deserve it just as well if not more. Those guys are beasts on defense and PG and Iggy usually have to be that defensive presence all game long (LeBron takes possessions off through Battier).

  65. tyballer23 says:

    have you seen the NBA this year clearly Serge Ibaka should have won it last year and he is leading the league in blocks once again wtf is wrong with yall he should clearly win it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Wattsy says:

      couldn’t agree more!!

    • OKCKD35 says:

      Thank you, is this the rob ibaka league? Not only was he robbed of last years DPOY, he was also robbed in the dunk contest, im sorry but both of ibakas dunks were more difficult than jumping over the hood of “the official sponsor of the NBA) a Kia. Ibaka anchors OKc’s defense which is the # 2 FG% defense. Once again they would be better in PPg if they played a slow grind game like Memphis does on offense

  66. Ted says:

    You’re watching too much Denver games and less of Heat and Pacers games. Lebron James alone is light years away from Iguodala. You can make a case for Paul George over Iguodala. You also have Tony Allen who is a good perimeter defender. Joakim Noah, which I believe should be the DPOY, is also way better than Iguodala. Your iguana baby is way too far. There’s also Timmy D and Larry Sanders.

    • specialfriedrice says:

      If Bruce Bowen was never awarded a DPOY then I’m sorry but George, Iggy and especially Allen cant win this award…end of story…TD has earned DPOY this season…just like Garnett did in ’08…not flashy numbers just a big all round presence and contribution.

    • SL2H says:

      Paul George over Iguodala???? no, man.. it should be Iguodala over Paul George. Paul George is so over rated defensively.. it’s just his 2nd year in the league. Iguodala has been shutting down scorers for 9 years. no discussion. period.

  67. ret103 says:

    I agree with Big Euro.

  68. ret103 says:

    What about wing defender Tony Allen? Go check the stats.

  69. Big Euro says:

    You guys are right about Iggy being a better perimeter defender than LeBron but he never has to exert himself offensively like LeBron is expected to each night. Moreover when it comes to matching up with ‘Bigs’, LeBron handles them equally well. His versatility allows Miami to switch and recover on numerous plays.

    If it was up to me, I would give the award to Tony Allen and Marc Gasol as co-DOPYs. Memphis has the best D in the league and from what I can see when I watch them Allen forces attacking to players to work for everything. Albeit his minutes are lower than Gasol’s.

    • Bamz says:

      All those awards is a big BS. Last years best defense was Celtics defense, most important player on the defensive side of the floor was clearly KG and stats/numbers suport this statement, KG got the biggest impact on the defense in the league last year and he finished behind Chandler and Ibaka (!) in voting.

      • dattebayo says:

        It’s actually really sad, when you think about it. KG ranked 4th behind Ibaka, Chandler, Lebron and Howard and he got fewer frist votes than Tony Allen. I guess that’s the magic of the Big New York Market…

      • Fan says:

        Not like the Knicks were a amazing as a defensive team but there was a clear difference with Tyson Chandler on the floor.. Gotta give that guy some credit. The differential was huge when he was on the floor vs when he wasn’t.

  70. Fefe (Nets) says:

    Yep Iguodala makes a strong case too, as George, James, Noah, Ibaka, Gasol, Sanders, Duncan, Sefolosha

    But I dont ‘see a problem with Gasol being picked here

    • #BULLS says:

      I think that since they all are arounds the same level of impact, they’re stats should be considered as a tie breaker scenario. Then look at some of their big performances. When was the last time you seen somebody go 20pts -20reb -10blk (23pts, 21reb, 11blk) Thats right. Only 4 other players in NBA history has ever done that in the regular season. Joakim Noah does it all. They cant give it to a guy that avg less than 8reb a game… Im sorry. Rebounding finishes the defensive posession.

      • Charles says:

        The rebounding statistic is overrated. The value in a good defensive center is he can protect the rebound by boxing out the other teams big guys. If you look at the amount of rebounds teams average against the Grizzlies it’s one of the lowest in the league. Big Marc is in there putting in the dirty work boxing out the likes of Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan while his team mates gather the lose rebound.
        Marc’s defensive game is fundamental to his team. He is the leader of one of the toughest defences in the league. Stats don’t show that aspect of the game. There’s more to defense than blocking shots. This guy knows what he’s talking about.

      • mj says:

        Stats should not be the tie-breaker, the defensive level of the team they play for should be.

  71. fin420 says:

    y valid point about iguodala as a wing defender but for me
    wing defenders: 1. Lebron 2. george 3. iguodala / kobe

    • Justin says:

      I love your point! Iguodala has shut down players from the Harden/Kobe breed to Russell Westbrook to David Lee. I’ve literally seen him play man-to-man on every position but the center this year and he shut down quite well. I think he shut off his concentration on free-throw shooting so he could put more effort on the defensive… There is a reason why Denver’s defense has gotten much better!

    • jhbh says:

      kobe was an absolute wreck on defense this season are you kidding

  72. Charliemyboy says:

    Have you watched the NBA this year? Have you watched the Nuggets? 20-7 against western playoff teams? What change did they make? Iguodala! what happens when Durrant or Westbrook or Kobe or any other top guard plays against him? 20-50% less effictiveness and franchise history is made for the Nuggets. Come on. What wing plays better defence? Come down to earth; he is the number one game defensive changer in the league.

    • Joe says:

      You’re insane. While AI(2) is a great defender, Tony Allen, Mike Conley, Chris Paul, LBJ, and Kobe all are better perimeter defenders.

      • SL2H says:

        Are you serious, Joe?! CP3 is not a premier defender, he’s just a good defender for a guard.. Tony Allen is just a ball hawk but not a lock down defender like Iggy, Kobe is not better than Iggy defensively, period. Paul George is not a lock down defender. Iggy is much better defensively than LBJ! c’mon!

    • Philemon says:

      You could make the same argument for Paul George

    • OKCKD35 says:

      I still don’t understand why Serge Ibaka does not get more recognition other than blocking shots, not only does he block shots he alters many more and many times turn the 4 guy into a jump shooter. OKC has the 2nd best FG% defense (would probably be better than the grizzlies defense if OKC didn’t play so uptempo forcing more possessions per game. At least this year I like your choice, I think chandler last year was a garbage pick. Ibaka deserves either DPOY or most improved, but wont get either….