Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year award

Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz

Although defense is not as celebrated as it once was in the NBA, there are still a handful of players that make it a priority. 

At the 2018 NBA Awards Show on Monday, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers were the three nominees for the Defensive Player of the Year honor.

All three big men were disruptive forces on the defensive end of the floor during this past regular-season.

Gobert posted 2.3 blocks per game during the regular-season (third in the NBA) while Davis led the NBA with 2.57. Embiid was slightly behind with 1.75 swats per contest (sixth in the league).

While blocks are not the only indicator of a dominant defensive player, it’s important to note that all three big men made it a habit to deny opponents at the rim. Further, all three have a tendency to alter shots around the rim, since opposing players are aware of their mere presence. 

Despite the fact that injuries limited to Gobert to just 56 regular-season games, his defensive impact when he was on the court and healthy was enough to earn him the award.

A real difference-maker

When he played, the Jazz were 37-19 and ended the regular season with a remarkable 29-5 record in their last 34 games. The vote was a landslide, too, as he received 94 of a possible 100 first-place votes.

"Defense to me is something that when you watch a game you don't really pay attention to defense unless you're very -- unless you're a specialist," Gobert said in his acceptance speech. "People watch the points, they watch the highlights. But the defense I think helps the offense. I think when you're a very good defensive team -- it's very rare a team wins a championship when you're not a very good defensive team.”

"I think when you're a very good defensive team you give yourself a chance every night, on the road, at home, it's a big factor and something to build on,” he added.

Unlike Davis and Embiid, Gobert doesn't expel too much energy on the offensive side of the ball. While he has made strides on offense, especially on pick-and-roll opportunities, Gobert makes his living and holds an extreme amount of value defensively. Winning the award on Monday validates that effort.

Since he’s under contract through the 2020-2021 season, Gobert and the Jazz will have a chance to prove that a defensive-minded club can contend for a championship. 

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