Before the NBA season was put to a halt, the Los Angeles Lakers and Anthony Davis had been on a role. While the league has started to favor explosive offenses, Los Angeles has been winning because of their elite defense. They rank third in the NBA in defensive efficiency and much of that is thanks to Davis, who has been playing like a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz has cemented himself as the best defensive player in the NBA over the last two seasons as he was Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019. However, Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons thinks more highly of Davis.
“I look at AD and I think he’s a better defender than Gobert, because he can defend guards at times,” Simmons said, per NBCS Sports Philadelphia. “Look, I play ball, I’m looking at guys who can guard 1 through 5, man. … You can’t say you’re one of the best defenders if you’re not guarding every position.”
Davis is one of the best all-around players in the NBA, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some think he’s better than Gobert. Lakers coach Frank Vogel has already stated that he thinks Davis is the best defender in the game, but it’s going to take some time before he can take the crown from Gobert.
Simmons Praises James Harden
In the NBA, it’s easy to become a star without being a good defender. Many of the “best” players in the league are amazing offensively but don’t do much on the defensive end. Houston Rockets star and former MVP James Harden has often been criticized for defensive play, but Ben Simmons thinks that’s a false narrative.
“Yo, here’s the one thing,” Simmons said. “I’ve got something to say. Everyone talks on James’ D, but he can play D. I don’t think y’all understand how strong that dude is. He’s a strong guy. A lot of people listen to analytics and stuff, it makes no sense. Analytically? You can’t always look at numbers, man.”
According to NBA Stats, Harden ranks 43rd in the league in defensive win shares. That’s not necessarily great, but it’s not the worst. He’s certainly not as poor on defense as Trae Young or Bradley Beal. That said, there are many examples of Harden embarrassing himself on defense, so it’s hard to buy into what Simmons is selling.
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Can Anthony Davis Win DPOY?
If the NBA season continues, the race for Defensive Player of the Year will likely be between Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert. Fair or not, Gobert probably won’t win the award for a third straight year due to his role in getting the NBA suspended. Giannis has a really good shot as he’s the best defender on the best defensive team in the NBA. He’s probably the favorite right now.
Davis is the best defender on the third-best defensive in the NBA, so he’s not completely out of it. He’s got the edge over Giannis in steals and blocks per game, but the Bucks star has the edge in defensive rebounds. If the NBA season does return, it should be an interesting race between the two.