Feb 27, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey holds his hands up as he watches his defense against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Oak for the Raps' best defensive player goes to...

In many ways, choosing a DPoY (Defensive Player of the Year) is the most difficult selection of all. By definition, if you’re on defense, you don’t have the ball, so there are only a few statistics which are relevant, like blocked shots and defensive rebounds. There are “phantom” stats, like shots negatively affected by a block attempt, or the number of times a defender kept his man in front of him, thereby denying him a drive to the basket, or a comfortable jump shot. “Had we but world enough, and time”

 I could research tipped and intercepted passes, the Rap who kept his opposite number to the biggest number of points below his season average, and on and on. But we don’t. Statistics can provide some backstopping, but I’m going to rely on my game scribblings and observations.

Mar 17, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors center-forward Amir Johnson (15) and center Jonas Valanciunas (17) come down with a rebound as Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem (40) defends at the Air Canada Centre. Miami defeated Toronto 108-91. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

With all the mulling done, and notes accumulated, I’m nominating:

  • Amir Johnson
  • Jonas Valanciunas
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Rudy Gay (yes, I’m surprised too)

Amir’s candidacy emerges because of his stats leadership (#1 in blocks PG @ 1.4, #2 in D-rebounds @ 4.7) and consistent excellence. How often does Amir’s man beat him down the floor to score in transition following a Raps’ turnover? I’ll offer a hint: very seldom. Sure, he also “led” the team in Personal Fouls PG @ 3.7, but he was usually asked to guard the opponent’s toughest big man. Who else could do it – Andrea Bargnani?

Jonas Valanciunas improved defensively by leaps and bounds in his rookie season. I like his demeanor; he backs down to no one. His rebounding was not what it will be @ 4.0 PG, but 1.3 blocks is very solid. JV is still learning, and will be for years. He’s not a finished product in help defense situations, but he’s coachable and very young.

Kyle Lowry finished second in steals @ 1.4 PG, which you would expect from a speedy guard with quick hands. However,  grabbing 3.9 D-rebs (ahead of DeMar DeRozan and (sigh) AB, among others) is an unexpected bonus, and lifts his DPoY candidacy. Kyle struggled to defend taller elite point guards like Kyrie Irving, but who didn’t?

Apr 14, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) scores against Toronto Raptors forward Rudy Gay (22) at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy Gay’s 7 years of NBA experience shows up in his surprisingly solid defensive stats. Did his name come to mind when you wondered who led the team in D-rebs PG? Me neither, yet there he is @ 5.1. His blocks are a so-so 0.7, but he led in steals @ 1.7. Rudy sometimes appears to be not trying, but he usually had his man locked down.

A tough decision, but it’s time for the envelope. And the winner is….RUDY GAY [much sharp intake of breath indicating disbelief, and here and there some hooting]

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

Apr 12, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Bulls guard-forward Jimmy Butler (21) protects the ball against Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (3) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Chicago 97-88. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

 

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Tags: Amir Johnson Jonas Valanciunas Kyle Lowry NBA Rudy Gay Toronto Raptors

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