Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
LeBron wants it. Roy Hibbert does, too. Who’s your Defensive Player of the Year?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: LeBron James deserves to have one or more of these in his trophy case before the chiseling begins on that mountainside (he should have won it last year, IMO). But the DPOY traditionally has been a big-man’s award — they’ve won 22 of the 31 presented so far — and it probably will be again. Roy Hibbert will benefit from the Pacers’ W-L success, their league-best defense and the credit all involved give to the Indiana center for his rim protection and mastering of the “law of verticality.” Obviously, there’s an apples-oranges issue at play, because these two guys play defense so differently. Hibbert is the Great Dane stationed at the palace gate as much to intimdate as to actually thwart, while James is one of those hounds you always hear about being unleashed to chase down and attack the bad guys.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: LeBron James. Taking nothing away from the job Roy Hibbert has done, but if needed, James can guard every position 1-5 on the court.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I’m going Hibbert, by gosh. He is anchoring the league’s No. 1 defense by a wide margin, he is third in blocks (just barely behind Serge Ibaka for second) and he is No. 1 in the all-important opponent field-goal percentage at the rim, a category now cataloged by the SportVU cameras and can be found on NBA.com/Stats.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Hibbert. James would not be a bad pick, but Hibbert is the anchor of the defense that over the last couple seasons, and in 2013-14 in particular, has turned into a title threat because of defense. From opening night on, he has earned the award through about three-quarters of the season. Let’s keep in mind, though, that the actual award will be for all 82 games. There’s still enough time left for a change at the top.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Hibbert. The Pacers are the best defensive team of the last 30 years and four points per 100 possessions better than the second-ranked Bulls. Hibbert is the fulcrum of that defense, by far the biggest reason why they defend the restricted area much better than any other team, and an important part of their third-ranked 3-point defense. After Hibbert, I’d have Paul George, Andre Iguodala and Joakim Noah in some order. The Heat aren’t even in the top 10 defensively and have been better on that end with LeBron off the floor. He had a much better case in any of the previous three seasons.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I think Serge Ibaka has been the most impressive defender I’ve seen this season, LeBron James plowing through his forearm notwithstanding. Seriously, the Thunder big man has been his usual, shot-blocking nemesis self all season. He’s one of the few guys in the league capable of changing games with his defensive presence alone. Hibbert is an excellent post defender, at times, and no one covers more ground or is more versatile than LeBron. Neither one of them, though, has been as consistently brilliant as Ibaka has been on the defensive end this season.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: To be honest, I haven’t decided yet. But I do think LeBron has more value as a defender than Hibbert because of his versatility. And following that same line of thinking, I think the Pacers’ own Paul George might even be a more valuable defender than Hibbert. And for whatever it’s worth, I wouldn’t vote for him for Defensive Player of the Year, but I’ve loved watching Patrick Beverly playing defense this season — he is absolutely fearless and aggressive and just a ton of fun to watch.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I want to name someone who’s flying a little under the radar but who’s really putting up big numbers: Anthony Davis. The Pelicans big man leads the league in blocks, 3.04 per game, opponents field goal made at rim per game (2.9) and grabs 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s turning into a truly intimidating presence inside. And he continues to improve.
Aldo Miguel Aviñante, NBA Philippines: Roy Hibbert is my pick for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He’s the anchor to the league’s toughest defense. Hibbert has fully grasped the verticality rule and with his heft and height, and he’s made a living inside with his dominating presence, especially on the defensive end of the floor.