The NBA announced today that Tyson Chandler won its Defensive Player of the Year Award for the 2011-12 season, ending Dwight Howard’s three-year reign as the league’s top defender. Howard finished third behind Chandler and Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, who posted a highest blocks per game average this season that is the highest in more than a decade.
None of the Milwaukee Bucks received votes. In the past two years, former Buck Andrew Bogut finished 7th and 5th in the voting, while Luc Mbah a Moute got a single third-place vote back in 2009-10.
No argument here on Chandler’s selection. Heck, Tyson may have been the best defender last year, too, when he anchored the defense on a championship Dallas Mavericks team. This year, he and Iman Shumpert turned the Knicks from a bucket-yielding sieve into a stalwart defensive team.
The problem, however, is that the award itself has become center-centric. 19 of the award’s last 21 recipients have been big men. Below is a list of the 20 winners prior to Chandler.
|2010-11||Dwight Howard (V)||ORL|
|2009-10||Dwight Howard (V)||ORL|
|2008-09||Dwight Howard (V)||ORL|
|2007-08||Kevin Garnett (V)||BOS|
|2006-07||Marcus Camby (V)||DEN|
|2005-06||Ben Wallace (V)||DET|
|2004-05||Ben Wallace (V)||DET|
|2003-04||Metta World Peace (V)||IND|
|2002-03||Ben Wallace (V)||DET|
|2001-02||Ben Wallace (V)||DET|
|2000-01||Dikembe Mutombo (V)||TOT|
|1999-00||Alonzo Mourning (V)||MIA|
|1998-99||Alonzo Mourning (V)||MIA|
|1997-98||Dikembe Mutombo (V)||ATL|
|1996-97||Dikembe Mutombo (V)||ATL|
|1995-96||Gary Payton (V)||SEA|
|1994-95||Dikembe Mutombo (V)||DEN|
|1993-94||Hakeem Olajuwon (V)||HOU|
|1992-93||Hakeem Olajuwon (V)||HOU|
|1991-92||David Robinson (V)||SAS|
It wasn’t always this way — five of the first six awards went to wing players — and the NBA can clearly do better. Sure, there will always be voters who look at steals and blocks while overlooking those who, you know, actually do the most to stop opposing teams from scoring. (See above RE: Ibaka. He blocked a ton of shots this year, but he wasn’t nearly the top defensive player. His most notable improvement this year was to get better treatment from the refs so he didn’t have to leave with foul trouble.)
An easy improvement exists to improve, but not perfect, a flawed system. Make a separate award for perimeter players: the Sidney Moncrief Defensive Perimeter Player of the Year Award. The NBA already names some of its awards after people, like the Red Auerbach Coach of the Year Award. Since Sidney has not yet made his way into the Basketball Hall of Fame (which is not, it should be noted, an NBA Hall of Fame), the league can make this gesture to Moncrief, one of the league’s best defenders of the last 40 years.
And while the NBA is at it, they can dedicate the original award to interior players. They should rename that one after Hakeem Olajuwon.
Why? Because it beats naming it after Kia.