Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has won the 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year Award with LeBron James coming in second and Serge Ibaka third. The issue, he wasn’t even the best defensive player on the Grizzlies roster.
Tony Allen is the best defensive player on the Grizzlies roster followed by Tayshaun Prince and Mike Conley. The award is extremely difficult for perimeter defenders to win as Sidney Moncrief, Alvin Robertson, Michael Cooper, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, Gary Payton and Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) have won the award since it became recognized in 1982-1983.
For Gasol his 5.5 defensive rebounds per game is the lowest of any center or power forward to win the award and the 1.7 blocks is the second lowest. While he did rank no.2 in defensive win shares and no.5 in defensive rating. Those rankings are certainly impressive it doesn’t take away from the fact that he doesn’t have the athleticism to defend one-on-one in the post and will get into foul trouble.
It’s the main reason the Grizzlies needed the length of Rudy Gay who got traded during the season and why Prince came over from the Detroit Pistons in the three-team trade.
This isn’t to say that James or Ibaka were deserving over Gasol. His teammate Allen certainly deserved recognition for his outstanding season defensively. He averaged 1.5 steals per game, .6 blocks and on a nightly basis guarded the best perimeter players in the NBA. Another player more deserving, Tim Duncan. His 2012-2013 season saw him rank no.1 in defensive rating and no.4 in defensive win shares. Averaged 8.1 defensive rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
Duncan defends the post, blocks shots and rebounds allowing for the San Antonio Spurs to get out in transition and score. While there’s no question that Gasol is a good defensive player it’s extremely difficult to justify him winning the award when he’s not the best defensive player on the Grizzlies or at his position.