Will Joakim Noah win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award?

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LeBron James Joakim Noah

The discussion about the Defensive Player of the Year award has heated up since the All-Star break. It has changed a bit, too. After LeBron James stated that he should be the one to win the award this season, we have also seen Joakim Noah emerging a strong candidate. The Frenchman center has dramatically improved his performance during the second half of the season, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He is one of the biggest factors for the Chicago Bulls this season. Of course, Roy Hibbert still remains one of the top favorites for the title this season, as he has been playing extremely well on defense throughout the season. So who will eventually win the Defensive Player of the Year award? Who stands the biggest chances? Let’s break down.

The truth is that the race is really tight. Not only James, Noah and Hibbert rank amongst the candidates, who will be fighting chest to chest till the end of the season, but there are some other potential candidates who might enter the mix, like Paul George and Andrew Bogut. The three centers, of course, have a slight advantage in the race, as defense is their main strength, the main aspect of the game which makes them valuable to their respective teams. However, we shouldn’t underestimate LeBron’s chances to win the award or even George’s. Just the two superstars are surging on offense, actually two of the best offensive players in the league, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t receive credit for what they bring on the defensive end of the floor.

Joakim Noah

Kevin McHale, the Head Coach of the Houston Rockets just recently stated that Joakim Noah should be named Defensive Player of the Year in the 2013-2014 campaign. That’s a great honor for Noah, as a coach of another contending team is recognizing his contribution but is Coach McHale actually right? Partially, yes. Noah has really been playing a whole different level since the All-Star break. He is playing with confidence and endless energy, leading the Chicago Bulls to a great course. In fact, Noah is the main reason the Bulls have managed to stay within the top four seeds in the East. Of course, it’s not actually fair to judge a player for only one half of the season, but Noah wasn’t bad at all prior to the All-Star break either. If he doesn’t end up winning the trophy this season, he will certainly end up close to the top.

LeBron James

Some NBA analysts state that it’s finally time for LeBron to receive credit for the great defense he has been playing all those years. Now, nobody actually said that he should just be given away the award. He is playing tremendous defense this season, much like he has done through the last years of his career in the league. King James can defend any position, from point guard to center, he has excellent defensive awareness and he is also very aggressive. This might actually be LeBron’s year.

Roy Hibbert

Before the emergence of Joakim Noah, Hibbert was the favorite for the title. The 7’2” center has been playing solid defense since the start of the season. Continuing right where he stopped during the 2013 playoffs, he is the biggest reason why the Indiana Pacers rank first in the entire NBA on defense. Hibbert barricades the paint, forcing opposing swingmen to attempt low-percentage mid-range shots instead of driving to the basket. He is also an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. What more could you ask from your Defensive Player of the Year?

Andrew Bogut

Now, Bogut might not be a one of the top favorites, but he certainly deserves a look. The 29-year old center is a defensive anchor for the Golden State Warriors. He is averaging 10.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest and he has emerged as a candidate for the award as of lately.

Paul George

George combines terrifically with Roy Hibbert to form arguably the best defensive swingman-big duo in the league. He plays with consistency, he is very good in one – on – one situations and as he proved during the 2013 playoffs, he can also guard superstars, like LeBron James, with efficiency. This season, we are actually seeing George continuing to improve his defensive game, right as he did last season. George might actually be the second favorite for the award, when it comes to perimeter players, just behind LeBron.

Other candidates

From time to time, we’ve heard a bunch of names entering the discussion for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Andre Iguodala, Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan are a few of them. However, none of them seems able to really steal the award from the top candidates above. Gasol is certainly playing great defense but he missed a big chunk of the season early on, much like Tyson Chandler did. Iguodala could also get a chance but he doesn’t seem to be able to outrace LeBron. Howard and Jordan are nowhere near Noah or Hibbert when it comes to defensive efficiency. Although they are better shot blockers and better athletes in general, their efficiency is not as good as Noah’s and Hibbert’s.

We could fairly say that the race will go down to the last details and it won’t be decided until the very last games of the season. The fact that some stars might get a big rest from their respective coaches could also be a factor in the final result. The certain thing is that voters will have a very tough time choosing their favorite player this season.

Ron Leyba is the content manager of Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues – premier source of fantasy basketball updates, rankings and rumors. For more of his fantasy basketball updates, follow Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ account.

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