Will A Grizzly Win Defensive Player Of The Year?

March 12, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) has some words with teammate Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen (9) during the fourth quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. Memphis won the game 102-97. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies’ insanely tough defense is hardly a secret anymore; it’s the biggest reason why no one wants to play Memphis in the playoffs. But some questions could be raised about what player is most responsible for the Grizzlies prowess on the defensive end. Is it Tony Allen, the monster on the perimeter, or Marc Gasol, the beats in the post. You could make a strong case for either one, and now, the two are the biggest frontrunners for defensive player of the year.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s stable of NBA writers released their picks for every major award, including Defensive Player Of The year. Marc Gasol was the winner in that category, receiving 11 votes, while Tony Allen was second, receiving 8. Third place was Bulls center Joakim Noah, who earned six votes. No other player received more than two votes.

So, based on this, it seems very likely that a Grizzly will earn this honor in 2013. The Grizzlies defense is so renowned at this point, that if we believe ESPN, the Grizzlies have the top two defensive players in the league. Allen as the best defensive guard, and Gasol as the top defensive big man. Has it ever been so sweet to be a Grizzlies fan?

Of course, there are cases to be made for other players. LeBron James is a great defender, and the only player in the league who can defend all five positions. There’s probably a case to be made that LeBron isn’t getting considered more for this just because he’s already going to win the MVP, and giving him another award on top of that.

Still, when you look at what Marc and Tony did this year, they are both very deserving of the honor. The question is, who ends up getting the glory. ESPN’s poll had Gasol with a slight advantage, but that could change once everyone else has their say. Looking at the numbers for each player, it’s very close. If we use the marker of defensive rating – which measures the number of points opposing players score on a player in 100 possessions, both are at a very low 98. Where Gasol has the edge is in defensive win shares – he’s racked up 5.4 compared to only 4.1 for Allen. This disparity exists primarily because Gasol has played more minutes than Allen in this season. Could that wind up being the tie-breaker, Gasol winning out simply because he’s been on the court more? In a tight race, without a lot definitive answers, it’s the one firm measurement NBA writers could look to when making their decision.

If I had to guess, I’d say Marc wins the award. His presence in the paint is incredibly imposing, and all year long, we’ve watched the best big men in the league struggle to do anything as #33 blocks their path. Tony Allen has had a great season as well, and he definitely deserves another spot the All-Defensive team, but for his incredible ability to render superstars ineffective night after night, Marc has my vote for this honor.

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