Avery Bradley's goal of winning DPOY isn't unrealistic, but it's unlikely
The fact is, 14 of the last 16 winners have been centers
Avery Bradley has been a good-to-great defender in the NBA since he was a second-year player. He's a ball-hawk and was 81st percentile in isolation defense via Synergy Sports last season. He's a rare combination of strength, speed and defensive instincts. He also rarely takes a play off defensively, and is always ready to engage. That stuff matters.
Bradley wants to make a run at Defensive Player of the Year, he said Saturday.
Avery Bradley: "I hope I can be in the (defensive player of the year) convo because I think I deserve to be." #Celtics— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) October 1, 2016
Bradley has the whole toolbox. Watch his instincts as he anticipates this move from DeMar DeRozan and launches around a screen for a steal like a wolverine chasing down a rabbit:
He's active with long arms that can disrupt passing lanes out of the pick and roll.
Bradley's crafty as all get out. Watch how he positions his body on a jump stop, almost leaping into a squat with his thighs out to disrupt Steph Curry's attack here, simultaneously swiping to cause a steal.
But he's still going to have a really hard time winning Defensive Player of the Year.
For years, DPOY was basically determined by "counting stats." If you had a lot of blocks and rebounds, you would win DPOY. That's changed in recent years as advanced metrics and intensified scrutiny on the defensive end have changed the way voters think. But even with Kawhi Leonard winning the past two seasons, centers have won the award 14 out of 16 seasons since the turn of the millenium. The last guard to win the award was Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton 20 years ago, in 1996. Before him? Michael Jordan in 1988.
Guards just aren't seen as impactful. Mostly because, to be honest, they aren't. A center not only can impact his man, but cut off rotations and end plays with blocks. That intimidation factor deters drivers which makes it easier for the perimeter defenders. Those rebounds end possessions.
Conversely, a guard can help deter 3-point percentage, which is huge in the modern NBA, and disrupt pick and rolls, which is also a big deal. But for the most part, they can only contain one isolated weapon, instead of a wing like Kawhi Leonard, who constantly switches onto bigger opponents and disrupts them.
Still, if Bradley has a breakout season in terms of highlight plays, and really helps lead the Celtics to another top-five season defensively, he's going to be on the list. It would be shocking to see him win it when Tony Allen and Andre Iguodala have never won the award, but Bradley's going to deserve to be on the list, and his efforts in doing so are going to help the Celtics be a serious contender for second in the East this season.
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