Numbers don’t lie
By nearly any statistical measure Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the best defender in the NBA this season. No matter the type of stats a given voter covets, Giannis will have them.
If box score statistics are deemed important, consider that Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, and Andre Drummond are the only three players in the NBA this season to average at least 1.4 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
Steals and blocks never tell the whole story, so where does Giannis rank in other defensive metrics? Well, the short answer is he’s first in many key categories.
If analytics or advanced metrics weigh heavily into consideration among voters, then the Bucks’ versatile superstar should get the nod. Out of all players averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Antetokounmpo ranks first in the following metrics: defensive rating and defensive win shares. Antetokounmpo is also third in defensive box plus/minus, seventh in defensive rebound percentage and sixth in three-pointers contested per game.
Quantifying defensive impact using statistic is notoriously tricky, but even the most obvious measures in that regard, Antetokounmpo’s impact is undeniable. Possibly the easiest statistic to correlate to turn to is opponent field goal percentage when guarded by a particular player. Unsurprisingly, Giannis also excels at forcing opponents to miss shots.
According to NBA.com Antetokounmpo defends 11.4 shots per game at a clip of 40.2 percent. This percentage is 6.7 percent lower than his opponents’ average field goal percentage when not defended by Antetokounmpo, which ranks as the fifth best differential in the league and first among players with at least 50 games played.