NBA DPOY Power Rankings: It’s Rudy Gobert, then everyone else

Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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LA Clippers
LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

NBA DPOY Power Rankings, No. 5: Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Kawhi Leonard is the pick amongst the group of great wing defenders on the LA Clippers. The Clip show hasn’t played their hardest on defense many times this season – one game they look like the 2008 Boston Celtics, the next game they look like the 2021 Sacramento Kings. This is a reputation ranking, as we all know how good Leonard can be when he’s “locked in.”

This isn’t exactly a newsflash, but Kawhi Leonard is a really, really good defensive player. You could honestly pick either one of the three Clipper wing defenders for this list – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley – but I think Leonard has the best surface-level stats of the three and makes the biggest impact overall in the game of those three.

Leonard is averaging 1.8 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game, while usually guarding the primary or secondary scores. Leonard is in the 96 percentile in Defensive Plus-Minus and the 90th percentile in Deflections – things he’s been elite at for almost a decade. The Clippers have a Defensive Rating of 111.1 when Leonard is on the floor, and a 114.8 when he’s off – a pretty significant defensive net rating for a wing defender.

While the Clippers may not have the Defensive Player of the Year on their roster, they might have the defensive lineup of the year. Their lineup with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley, Serge Ibaka and Nicolas Batum have a 102.3 Defensive Rating and generate an overall net rating have 16.7 points per hundred possessions.

Well, neither of these five guys are having careers defensively, the group as a whole is a dynamic, switchy lineup that makes it seem impossible to score. George and Beverly have fair claim to say they are the best defenders in this lineup, but the numbers bear out that without Leonard this lineup wouldn’t be so elite.

There is still plenty of season to go for the Clippers, who rank 12th overall defensively, to clamp down and show their defensive muscle. A strong showing in the next month may catapult Leonard higher on this list.