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Jazz center Rudy Gobert wins third Defensive Player of the Year

Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JUNE 8: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz blocks the ball to win the game against the LA Clippers during Round 2, Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 8, 2021 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

When he emerged as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2015, Rudy Gobert said, “To be honest and to be realistic, I think they’re going to put somebody who’s more exposed to TV.”

So, Gobert improved even further, became an All-Star and lifted the Jazz with him.

Today – between Utah’s nationally televised win over the Clippers yesterday and Game 2 of the second-round series tomorrow – Gobert was named Defensive Player of the Year. A well-deserved honor, this is Gobert’s third Defensive Player of the Year.

Full voting with first-, second- and third-place votes and total voting points:

1. Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz): 84-14-2-464

2. Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers): 15-67-11-287

3. Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors): 0-13-37-76

4. Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat): 1-3-17-31

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks): 0-0-12-12

6. Clint Capela (Atlanta Hawks): 0-1-7-10

7. Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers): 0-2-1-7

8. Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks): 0-0-6-6

9. Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers): 0-0-3-3

10. Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat): 0-0-2-2

11. Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia 76ers): 0-0-1-1

12. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Los Angeles Lakers): 0-0-1-1

Gobert is now just the third player to win three Defensive Player of the Years:

  • Dikembe Mutombo 4
  • Ben Wallace 4
  • Dwight Howard 3
  • Rudy Gobert 3

Gobert is a dependably elite regular-season defender. He is a great rim protector, and the Jazz take advantage by funneling opponents toward him. He excels as a defensive rebounder. And he has improved defending in space.

Gobert’s playoff defense – still good – is more questionable. He wasn’t as impactful against the Grizzlies in the first round, but he held up well in Game 1 against the Clippers and had the game-winning block of a Marcus Morris 3-pointer:

This is a regular-season award, and Gobert earned it. By a wide margin.

Ben Simmons campaigned hard for this honor, and Doc Rivers repeatedly endorsed him. That probably helped Simmons finish so high in voting (second place with 15 first-place votes). He didn’t crack my top three, as it’s so difficult for non-bigs to make that large of an impact in the regular season.

Which is yet another reason Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s third-place vote is so curious.