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Jazz big man Rudy Gobert wins this year’s NBA defender for the third time in his career

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Rudy Gobert has been named Defender of the Year 2020-21

, the NBA announced Wednesday. This is Gobert’s third award for Defensive Player of the Year. He previously won the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons before losing the award to Giannis Antetokounmpo last season. By winning the award for the third time, Gobert has now tied Dwight Howard to the third most defensive player of the year ever, followed by Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo, who each have four.

Gobert finished with 84 first-place votes, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, who collected 15.

Gobert’s Jazz had the best record in the NBA this season at 52-20, and he was one of the biggest reasons why. The Jazz finished in third place in defense despite the lack of teammates of All-Defense caliber to their star center. That’s because Gobert’s rim protection is so overwhelmingly powerful that Utah can afford to use the rest of its defenders to protect against 3-point shots. Not surprisingly, the Jazz allowed the third smallest of them in the NBA.

Virtually all polls painted Gobert as the NBA’s best defensive player. He led the NBA in total blocks by 190 and finished in second place in blocks per. Fight behind Myles Turner. He also led the NBA in defensive rebounds. Opponents shot 7.7 percent worse against him than they did against an average defender, and he finished in third place in a defensive rating of 100.9, surpassing only teammates Mike Conley and Georges Niang, who benefited from his presence. Among advanced measurements, Gobert led the NBA in defensive win stocks, all kinds of FiveThirtyEights defensive RAPTOR measurements, and ESPN’s defensive real-plus.

The true test for Gobert comes in the post-season. Drop-coverage big men tend to fight teams with enough shooting to pull them off the basket, and now that Gobert has proven everything he could possibly prove in the regular season, his merits as an all-time defender will be judged on what happens in the playoffs. He’s playing the best basketball of his career this season, and this award is a worthy starting point in his most important postseason race yet.

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