Five candidates who can beat Kawhi Leonard to the Defensive Player of the Year award

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Football News

Kawhi Leonard is undisputedly the best defender in the NBA and he has the awards to back it up. The small forward became the first non-center since Dennis Rodman to win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards last season. 

At the age of just 25, it wouldn't be a surprise to anybody if Leonard overtook Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace by winning the honour on more than four occasions and becoming the first player to do so. 

His defensive skills are unquestionable and that played a huge part in the San Antonio Spurs having the top defence in the league last year.

However, there are a number of players hungry to dethrone Kawhi and prize the award from him and here are his five biggest challengers for the upcoming campaign:

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Having finished as runner-up to the Spurs All-Star in two consecutive seasons, could it be third time lucky for Green?

The Western Conference rivals will certainly be the two main candidates for the award and will be vital defensive pieces for their teams as usual, particularly Draymond. 

With the addition of Kevin Durant in Oakland, the power forward will not be one of the Warriors' main options on offence and will take on added responsibility on the defensive end. 

The general consensus is that by having incredible offensive firepower, Golden State's defence may take a hit. But if Draymond plays a huge part in making sure they remain as one of the stingiest defences in the league, he will be a frontrunner for DPOY.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

At just 23, the Brow is a two-time blocks leader and made the All-Defensive Second Team in 2015. His ability on that end of the floor has been clear for all to see. 

However, injuries have been a big issue for Davis - he is currently sidelined with a fresh ankle injury - and are threatening to derail his progress.

If he overcomes his health problems and plays close to 82 games this year, he will certainly be a candidate for this award that many believe will be his at some stage in his career. 

The three-time All-Star has also been tipped to be a future MVP in the league, which is a reflection of just how highly he's rated and the talent he possesses. 

DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers center has finished in the top four in voting for DPOY in the last two years, so we can expect him to be there or thereabouts at the end of this campaign too. 

He has also been named to the All-Defensive First Team in consecutive campaigns and is arguably the best rim protector in the NBA at present. 

Opposing guards have a difficult time driving to the basket when the 7-footer is around as he does a great job manning the paint for the Clippers. 

Last season was something of a breakout year for DeAndre as he was a surprise selection on the All-NBA First Team and he can only get better.

Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat

Whiteside finished third behind Draymond and Leonard in last year's voting and led the league in blocks, averaging a staggering 3.7 per game. 

That earned him a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team and winning the DPOY award would be the latest chapter in the center's incredible story. 

However, after losing Dwyane Wade and ruling out a return for Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat could be in for a difficult year that may see them drop out of the playoff picture. 

Poor defensive numbers as a team and a failure to reach the postseason may harm the 27-year-old's chances of dethroning Leonard. 

Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics

After coming up again Bradley last season, Damian Lillard said: "I told him he was the best perimeter defender in the league. Because he is."

Lillard's comments were echoed by Warriors head coach Steve Kerr who said: "I agree with Damian. I think Avery Bradley's as good of an on-ball defender as there is in the league."

Those are ringing endorsements for the Celtics guard in terms of his defensive abilities and he made it clear in the offseason that his personal goal is to be named as the DPOY this year. 

"I feel like I should always be in that conversation," Bradley said earlier this month. 

He may be a long shot to win it ahead of the other candidates but if Boston has a very successful campaign, as many are predicting, he'll certainly be in the mix. 

Draymond Green
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division

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