With less than 20 games left in the '21/'22 NBA season, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green knows that the media is already sorting out their lists for the coveted individual awards. While Green believes he could win his second Defensive Player of the Year award, there are also other players who could take it away from him.
This late in the season, Green believes that not a single player has built a strong case for the DPOY. But this does not mean that no one has risen above the rest. In his eyes, Phoenix Suns swingman Mikal Bridges and Memphis Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson have been doing pretty good on the defensive end of the floor.
“I don’t know what league everybody else has been watching, but I have not seen anyone solidify themselves as Defensive Player of the Year. Unless you’re just going by, ‘Oh, this guy played this amount of games and their team had this record.’ Great. Yeah, you may come up with a guy. When I look around the league, Mikal Bridges has been really good defensively and Jaren Jackson has picked it up defensively,”
Draymond Green, NBC Sports
Defense wins championships
The rankings back up Green’s observations. In February’s Defensive Player Ladder, Bridges and Jackson were new entrants, landing in the second and third spot, respectively. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo ranked first for the second month in a row.
Bridges has always been an excellent defensive player. In college, he was crowned Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, Bridges was just four points shy of making the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. Yes, Chris Paul is their leader and the one who guided them to the promised land, Devin Booker can drop 50 on any given night, and DeAndre Ayton was the upcoming star of the playoffs. But it is foolish to discredit people like Bridges who have been playing their part equally impressively.
Jackson, for his part, leads the league in total blocks with 151. He’s tied with Rudy Gobert in first place in blocks per game with 2.2. Jackson’s defensive exploits have aided the Memphis Grizzlies into being one of the most pleasant surprises this season. As of writing, the Grizzlies sport a 47-22 record for second in the West.
Bridges and Jackson’s tremendous individual performances have not been in vain. The two subscribe to the adage that defense wins championships. Bridges and the Suns came very close last season. Jackson and the Grizzlies, meanwhile, are yet to be seen. But if they maintain their performance, we might see the Grizzlies make a deep playoff run.
There’s no question that Green wants to be crowned Defensive Player of the Year. Clearly, it is his mission to be one of the best defenders in NBA history. However, he knows that it is not just a walk in the park to win the coveted award. Whether he wins another DPOY trophy or not, we can safely assume that Draymond is pleased that other players share this quixotic quest.