The 2021-22 NBA season kicks off October 19 when the odds-on favorites Brooklyn Nets meet the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks to get things started. The Bucks have a former Defensive Player of the Year in Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he’s not among the top five to win the honor this season. Here’s a look at the contenders for the NBA’s top defensive honor.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award 2021-22 odds
The favorite: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (+340)
Gobert has won this award in three of the last four seasons, ceding the honor to Antetokounmpo in 2019-20. The Utah Jazz big man remains one of the most dominant defensive forces in the league, but there are questions about whether he can maintain that level of production in the postseason. He is the favorite to win this honor, although voter fatigue might hurt him when the ballots are cast.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers: +350
Where will Simmons end up? The Philadelphia 76ers guard does not want to be with the team anymore but the team has no intention of trading him for less than his value. Even as his offensive skillset has been questions, Simmons has become one of the top defenders in the league. His versatility is his biggest asset, but Simmons’ horrendous showing in the playoffs last year could turn a lot of teams away in the trade market.
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers: +700
Turner had a rough 2020-21 campaign, averaging 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 47 contests. The Indiana Pacers big man was thought to be a future star for the team, but has turned into a high-end rotation player amid Domantas Sabonis’ rise. Turner can still eliminate shots at the rim and he’ll be a bigger part of the picture under Rick Carlisle, who has experience playing two big men together. This could be a good season for the Texas product.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers: +700
Davis is going to be a factor in this award race, but his biggest issue is durability over the course of the season. The Los Angeles Lakers big man might play more at the center position this season, so his defensive metrics should improve. LA might not need as much from Davis offensively this season with Russell Westbrook in the mix, but look for the big man to make an impact on both ends of the floor. His health is the top priority though, and he could miss some games if the Lakers believe he needs time off before the playoffs.
Best bet: Myles Turner (+700)
Voter fatigue is real and nobody knows what team Simmons will be on yet. The Dallas Mavericks played two big men under Carlisle to win the franchise’s lone title. Tyson Chandler won Defensive Player of the Year that season, with Dirk Nowitzki became Finals MVP. The Pacers likely won’t reach those heights as a team, but the Turner-Sabonis dynamic could work the same way. Turner would become Indiana’s defensive force and at +700, there’s tremendous value in this wager.
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