Defensive Player of the Year – Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
With the resurgence of the NBA big man in recent years, the Defensive Player of the Year has been a tightly contested race. This has always been a frontcourt award, and it was a surprise when Marcus Smart won the award in the 2021-2022 season. The last guard to win the award before Smart was Gary Payton in 1995-1996.
Now with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, etc., the paint is an intimidating area for opposing players, and the depth of skilled defensive big men is expected to continue with players like Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama. Another name that should be mentioned with this younger group is Evan Mobley.
Mobley has burst onto the scene with the Cleveland Cavaliers and appears to be a centerpiece for this franchise to look to build around. In 2021, his first season in the league, Mobley averaged 1.7 blocks and 8.3 rebounds per game and was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Last season, Mobley’s sophomore year in the NBA, he was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team and became a factor on both ends of the floor, averaging 16.2 points, 9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. It is worth noting, defense is not something new to Mobley. In his one year in college, he was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12, and I expect him to earn that same award in the NBA this upcoming season.
Playing alongside Harrett Allen at Center for the Cavaliers is absolutely a benefit that cannot be ignored. The duo both have the versatility to defend stretch bigs on the perimeter as well as battle down low on the glass. Cleveland may be a sleeper this season in the Eastern Conference.