• Adam Bushman

Rudy's Place Among the Greats

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Rudy's second DPOY award admits him into a prestigious group of multi-time winners, but how does he stack up to them?

Image Source: NBA.com


This seemed to be the theme of the 2019 NBA Awards Show. Jazz fans and media personnel alike grew anxious and tired of waiting for the announcement of the 2019 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Nearly two hours had passed since the event began and still no announcement. Frustration was mounting on top of the suspense that compounded with every passing minute. The questions swirled one after another:

Would Rudy Gobert be crowned DPOY for the second consecutive season? Was Giannis Antetokounmpo’s outstanding defensive year enough to steal the award? Would the NBA voters really get it right or adhere to a false narrative?

These thoughts and feelings were surely a microcosm for Rudy’s internal turmoil as he, along with the rest of Jazz Nation, waited for his much deserved, although far from guaranteed, award.

Finally...the time had come.

“The KIA NBA Defensive Player of the Year is...Rudy Gobert.”

Image Source: NBA.com

In an instant, suspense morphed into excitement, frustration into relief, and doubt into validation.

With the award in hand, Rudy addressed the world:

“This is all my teammates. I say this all the time, but it’s a team game and when you have guys that bring it every night and come every day with the same focus and compete like we do it’s inspirational.”

Rudy becomes one of only ten players in NBA history to win multiple DPOY awards, joining a prestigious group including Ben Wallace, Hakeem Olajuwon, Sidney Moncrief, Alonzo Mourning, Dwight Howard, Dennis Rodmon, Dikembe Mutombo, Kawhi Leonard, and Rudy’s mentor Mark Eaton.

This got us thinking: who has had the best career within their respective years winning the DPOY award? How does Rudy’s two years stack up with the award winning years of the other nine individuals?

Table 1

We took a collection of seven defensive stats averaged between their years winning the DPOY award (please refer to Table 1 above for the results and an explanation of the stats).

Rudy Gobert ranks 4th in this list in DBPM, 6th in DWS/48, 3rd in DRB%, 6th in STL%, and 5th in BLK%. Of qualified players for Team DRTG and Player DRTG, Rudy ranks 2nd in each (see Table 1 above).

Calculating the average rank amongst these seven stats should give us an idea of how each player’s performance during their DPOY award winning years compares to the other members of the list.

Table 2 Table 3

Table 2 represents Gobert ranking 3rd in average rank of the seven stats, and in Table 3 Gobert ranks 4th in average rank of the five stats for which there is data.

Based on these numbers, Rudy Gobert’s defensive performance during his award winning years has elevated him into the top half of these ten multi-time DPOY winners.

It’s worth noting that these ten players span different eras of the NBA.

Monfrief and Eaton defended in an NBA where the 3 point line was brand new.

Olajuwon, Mutombo, Mourning, Rodman, Wallace, and Howard dominated a two decade span of tough, physical basketball aided by NBA rules.

Leonard and Gobert have found success in an era prizing offense and most recently limiting a defensive player’s ability to gain an advantage. Never before has defense been harder to play and more tricky to master.

With this context in mind, Gobert must begin to be considered one of the all-time defensive greats. He’s earned his place among the multi-time winners and performed well enough to sit among the best of the group.

The best defender in NBA history remains an interesting debate, with Ben Wallace, Dwight Howard, and Dikembe Mutombo routinely rounding out the debate. Every one of them boasts three or more DPOY awards.

For Rudy to join those three in the debate for best defensive player in NBA history, he has more work to do. But he’s up for the task.

Following the awards ceremony, Rudy took to Instagram to declare his next step. With both trophies in either hand, Rudy’s photo is captioned with the text, “To be continued…”

Another barrier in Rudy’s way is zero All-Star appearances to his name. The other nine multi-time DPOY award winners have at least one appearance.

One can hope that coming off his career season, armed with two DPOY trophies, and joining forces with Mike Conley, the best point guard he’ll have had in his career, that the voters will #TakeNote and grant Rudy his long deserved place amongst the league’s All-Stars.

But regardless of his future success in the NBA’s notorious popularity contest, Rudy knows what’s important with him.

“I’d take the Defensive Player of the Year andy day over an All-Star selection,” Rudy said. “There’s only one of these in the whole league every year.”

His sights are clearly set on next year’s solo award.

All that’s left is to wait. And prepare. And wait.

But Rudy is good at waiting.

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