by Shaun Powell
The Defensive Player of the Year vote will not necessarily be given to the NBA's best defensive player. If it did, Dwight Howard would have it locked up.
No matter your feelings on the subject of what will (and should) be a tight race for the award, it is hard imagining any defender being held in higher regard than Howard.
It's like Karl Malone winning MVP in 1997 (when Michael Jordan was still at the height of his powers). Was "The Mailman" really the best player in basketball? Nope. Voters had Jordan Fatigue. They were tired of him winning
Dwight Howard: You can come up with reasons why he shouldn't win again, and they'd all be a stretch.
Quite simply, Orlando is zip without Howard. If you remove his defense and rebounding -- and rebounding is a form of defense -- then you're looking at the Sacramento Kings ... or maybe worse.
The Magic lack a single player in the rotation other than Howard who has a reputation as a good defender (does Quentin Richardson count?). Opposing players regularly give the Magic guards whiplash by blowing by so quickly. Howard's teammates always beg him to erase their mistakes, which he does.
And here's the ultimate compliment to Howard: Some teams don't even venture into the lane, knowing what lurks.
Even with the contract distractions, this was a typically strong defensive year by Howard before his back gave out two weeks ago.
He lost his crown as the rebound king last season to Kevin Love, but he's back up at the top again, averaging an NBA-best 18.2 rpg. His 10.8 defensive rebounds per game bests both Chandler (6.5 drpg) and Ibaka (4.7 drpg). On defensive rebounds alone, Howard would rank seventh in the league in overall rebounds. Because he is a defensive rebounder deluxe, Howard keeps teams from fattening up on second chances.
Howard also blocked 2.15 shots per game and will likely finish third to Ibaka and Denver's JaVale McGee. Chandler? He's at 1.44 bpg.
Finally, without Howard's defense, Orlando is a deer at a hunter's convention. If you remove Ibaka from OKC, the Thunder will survive. Same is true for Miami and LeBron because of Dwyane Wade. And the Knicks would at least win a fair share without Chandler. The Magic without Howard are 3-6 and fading fast, giving up 99.8 points a game. With him, they allowed 92.0 ppg.
We all know the other reason for an anti-Howard vote: In addition to Howard Fatigue, voters might not like him for the way he handled his contract situation and coach Stan Van Gundy. The Daily Dwama surrounding Howard was indeed irritating, but what does that have to do with the award?
Those twin forces working against Howard -- his award winning streak and his bumpy off-court -- must be ignored, though.
All bias aside, Dwight Howard should win this award. But Tyson Chandler, a fresh face with a cleaner slate, will get it.