Most NBA pundits expect Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert to win Defensive Player of the Year, with the few remaining outliers leaning toward Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons. If you ask the 2017 winner of the award, though, you might get a very different answer.
The word "might" is important there, because technically, Draymond Green did not say who his Defensive Player of the Year pick would be. The Golden State Warriors veteran did, however, heavily imply that he would be his own choice. When asked by Anthony Slater of The Athletic who he'd choose, Green looked at him incredulously for several seconds before joking, "Anthony, you know me well, buddy" and walking out of his press conference with a smile on his face. When he was asked as he walked away if that meant he'd pick himself, Green replied "if you know basketball I think that you think it's me."
Green is not exactly modest about his ability, so the idea that he thinks he should win the award is hardly surprising, but he has a stronger case than others seem to think. The Warriors have the fifth-best defense in the NBA despite starting a rookie center for much of the season. No other player on the roster has ever earned All-Defense honors, and the bulk of Golden State's rotation is comprised of young players making the minimum or close to it. Golden State has a higher-ranked defense now than it did during the 2018-19 campaign, when Klay Thompson was healthy and Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala were still on the team. Green has held this group together.
Fivethirtyeight's overall and box score RAPTOR defensive metrics rank Green among the 10 best defenders in basketball. He ranks third in defensive win shares and fourth in defensive box plus-minus. Even at 31 years old, Green remains perhaps the NBA's best help defender and most switchable big man.
Green's value is most evident on teams that start with a stronger base of talent. He has said himself that he is focused primarily on games that matter, and many over the past two seasons haven't. He's at home in a defense that can switch comfortably, which the Warriors haven't always had the personnel to do this season. That makes it harder to measure his contributions against Gobert's, who essentially functions as a system unto himself as the NBA's best rim protector. His mere presence makes a defense great. That is likely why Gobert will win this award, but for what he has done on such an underwhelming roster, Green deserves more consideration than he has gotten.