The Trail Blazers defense has struggled at times this season, but one person has been a standout from day one: Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside, who came over in an offseason trade with the Miami Heat, has done an incredible job filling in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic all season.
His very first night as a Blazer was a 16 point, 19 rebound performance against the Denver Nuggets on opening night.
From there, he just kept climbing.
Whitside is statistically having one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 16.3 points and career-highs of 14.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
Whiteside is the league's second-leading rebounder, trailing only Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons (15.2 rpg).
But where he is most untouchable is defensively at the rim.
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Whiteside leads the entire league in blocks per game at 3.1. That is nearly a full block more than the two players tied for second, Anthony Davis and Brook Lopez (2.5 bpg).
Whiteside has 187 blocks on the season, compared to 147 for Lopez and 138 for Davis. Both Lopez and Whiteside have played 61 games, while Davis has played 55.
Regardless, you think the league's second-leading rebounder and leading shot-blocker would be recognized for their defensive prowess, right? You'd be wrong.
Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins of The Athletic anonymously polled 33 NBA coaches, some head coaches, some assistant coaches, to get their expert opinions.
The coaches had to vote for the first-team and second-team all-league defensive teams, while 23 of the coaches also voted on Defensive Player of the Year.
The only rule was they had to vote for two guards, two forwards, and one center for the all-league teams.
So, where did Whiteside fall?
He fell all the way out of the coaches consciousness.
Whiteside did not earn first of second-team All-League Defense, he also was not named Defensive Player of Year.
The really surprising part, however, is that Whiteside didn't even receive a single vote for any of the lists.
How can the league's leading blocker not even receive a vote for All-League defense?
According to the coaches' vote, Rudy Gobert was the Center on the first-team, and Bam Adebayo was the Center on the second team. Other centers receiving votes included Brook Lopez, Joel Embiid, Myles Turner, Tristan Thompson, Steven Adams, Andre Drummond, Jarrett Allen, and Domantas Sabonis.
As for the Defensive Player of the Year, the coaches picked Rudy Gobert, with Brook Lopez and Bam Adebayo being the only other centers to receive votes.
Here is how Whiteside compares to those three centers:
HASSAN WHITESIDE: 16.3 ppg, 14.2 rpg (10.2 drpg), 3.1 bpg
RUDY GOBERT: 15.1 ppg, 13.7 rpg (10.3 drpg), 2.0 bpg
BAM ADEBAYO: 16.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg (8.0 drpg), 1.3 bpg
BROOK LOPEZ: 11.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg (3.8 drpg), 2.4 bpg
Whiteside averages more points (though that doesn't matter for defense), rebounds, and blocks than the three centers that made the list. The only category any of those centers beat Whiteside in is defensive rebounds, where Gobert averages 0.1 more per game... 0.1!
When averaged out to a per 36, Whiteside leads in all categories.
HASSAN WHITESIDE PER 36: 18.7 ppg, 16.4 rpg (11.8 drpg), 3.5 bpg
RUDY GOBERT PER 36: 17.9 ppg, 14.5 rpg (10.2 drpg), 2.6 bpg
BAM ADEBAYO PER 36: 17.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg (8.3 drpg), 1.4 bpg
BROOK LOPEZ PER 36: 14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg (5.1 drpg), 3.3 bpg
However, Whiteside lags behind all three of those players in overall defensive rating: Lopez (99.1), Gobert (106.8), Adebayo(107.7), Whiteside (112.2)
More telling is that his individual defense hasn't led to overall improvements in team defense.
The Bucks lead the league in defensive efficiency (101.6), Utah is 11th (108.8), and Miami is 14th (109.2). The Blazers fall near the bottom, ranked 27th (113.6).
While the Blazers' struggles on defense aren't Whiteside's fault, the numbers show he isn't necessarily helping either.
As for the coaches, they value how a player impacts and changes the team defense over a player's individual numbers. Based on individual numbers alone, Whiteside should be in the conversation with those other centers, not an afterthought.
Again, how does the league's leading shot-blocker not even receive a vote for all-league defense?
Luckily for Whiteside, the Blazers have at least eight more games for him to put on a defensive show.