Brook Lopez

Five leading candidates for 2022-23 DPOY at the All-Star break

Home » NBA » Five leading candidates for 2022-23 DPOY at the All-Star break

With more than half of the season already in the record books, we can look back at the numbers and some performances to determine who deserves to be a part of the exclusive NBA Defensive Player of the Year ladder 2023.

NBA Defensive Player of the Year ladder 2023

You know how the old saying goes: Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. That ancient premise is still true, even in an offensive-driven league where defense seems like a lost art. That’s why the NBA trade deadline is often a frenzy of teams looking to add 3-and-D players and wing stoppers to keep the best scorers on Earth in check.

Of course, there’s only so much you can do to prevent guys like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, or Stephen Curry from getting their buckets. But several guys are good enough to at least make them uncomfortable while also locking down the other players in the league.

This is why the league honors the most disruptive defensive force in the season every year. And, just like it has happened throughout the years, there’s no shortage of worthy candidates this season. But who’ll take the award home? Let’s break it down.

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Watching Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s name among the potential NBA award winners has become the norm. In fact, it seems like people aren’t impressed by his numbers and game anymore, and we’re just taking him for granted. However, there’s absolutely nothing normal about averaging over 30 points per game while also being one of the best defenders on Earth.


I mean, that’s Michael Jordan‘s kind of standard. Giannis has already taken this award home once, adding to his First-ballot Hall of Famer résumé. He got some criticism for not always guarding the rival team’s best player, but that’s also a part of the game. His combination of size, speed, strength, length, and athleticism just allows him to guard one through five with ease.

4. Bam Adebayo

For years, Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo has ranked among the top DPOY candidates, and this isn’t the exception to the rule. He’s been quite vocal about constantly being snubbed for this award, but that hasn’t been the case. He’s been outstanding as a rim protector and solid on the perimeter, but he’s never been the best defender in the league; that’s just a fact.

That’s the same case again this season. The Heat have struggled to stay competitive and consistent, even despite Adebayo’s Herculean efforts on the defensive end of the floor. He’s no pushover and is an outstanding stopper, and no one can deny that, but he’s not at the top in any of the advanced metrics, so he’ll lose his chance another year.

3. Nic Claxton

Out of the blue, Brooklyn Nets big man Nic Claxton has emerged as a legit threat to run away with this award, rapidly climbing his way up the NBA Defensive Player of the Year ladder for 2023. He’s been a stalwart for coach Jacque Vaughn, proving that all he needed to thrive and prove his worth was more playing time. Unfortunately, the Nets — or Steve Nash — didn’t seem to feel the same way in the earlier stages of his career.

Claxton has surged as one of the most disruptive defensive presences in the Association. Not only is he leading the East in blocks per game at 2.6 despite playing under 30 minutes a night, but he’s also been outstanding at staying in front of quicker, smaller players on the perimeter. We wouldn’t be shocked if he wound up taking this award home if the Nets finish the season strong after their busy trade deadline.


2. Brook Lopez

Once considered a poor defender and an offensive-minded big man, Brook Lopez has been one of the best defenders in the NBA this season. He deserves plenty of praise for how his game has transitioned and adapted throughout the years, especially since joining the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s embraced a different role and is no longer a go-to guy offensively, much less a face-up, old-school big man.

Lopez expanded his offensive repertoire by becoming a steady three-point shooter, earning the ‘Splash Mountain’ nickname. Now, you can add lockdown defender to his résumé, as he’s constantly among the league’s leaders in contested and altered shots, wreaking havoc in the restricted area and both corners with his size and lateral movements. He may not be fast or athletic, but he can sure lock your favorite player up.

1. Jaren Jackson Jr.

If Jaren Jackson stays healthy and takes another leap forward offensively, he has a shot at being one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. His raw skills are just too impressive, and his defensive instincts are just a beauty to watch. He’s been an elite defender for years now, but it seems like he’s finally going to take the distinction home after finally being able to stay on the floor.

There’s a bit of a controversy about his stats being inflated at home, with some suspicious rebounds, steals, and blocks credited to him. But even if you took those away, Jackson Jr. should be considered one of the most impactful defenders in the Association.

He can guard one through five, pick your pocket, disrupt inbound plays, be a threat in passing lanes, and swat shots into the stands, just like a younger version of Kevin Garnett.

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