Rudy Gobert has been named Defender of the Year 2020-21, announced the NBA on Wednesday. This is Gobert’s third award for Defensive Player of the Year. He won earlier in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons before losing the award to Giannis Antetokounmpo last season. By winning the award for the third time, Gobert has now tied Dwight Howard to the third most defensive player of the year ever, followed by Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo, who each have four.
Gobert finished with 84 first-place votes, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, who collected 15.
Gobert’s Jazz had the best record in the NBA this season at 52-20, and he was one of the biggest reasons for that. The Jazz finished third in defense despite the lack of All-Defense-caliber teammates for their star center. That’s because Gobert’s rim protection is so overwhelmingly powerful that Utah can afford to use the rest of its defenders to protect against 3-point shots. Not surprisingly, the Jazz allowed the third-fewest of them in the NBA.
Virtually all polls painted Gobert as the NBA’s best defensive player. He led the NBA in total blocks by 190 and finished in second place in blocks per. Fight behind Myles Turner. He also led the NBA in defensive rebounds. Opponents shot 7.7 percent worse against him than they did against an average defender, and he finished in third place in a defensive rating of 100.9, surpassing only teammates Mike Conley and Georges Niang who benefited from his presence. Among advanced measurements, Gobert led the NBA in defensive win stocks, all sorts of FiveThirtyEight’s defensive RTOR measurements and ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus.
The true test for Gobert comes in the post-season. Drop-coverage big men tend to fight teams with enough shooting to pull them off the basket, and now that Gobert has proven everything he could possibly prove in the regular season, his merits as an all-time defender will be judged by what hpens in the playoffs. He’s playing the best basketball of his career this season, and this award is a worthy starting point in his most important post-season round ever.