Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers is lobbying hard to convince people that DeAndre Jordan should win the Defensive Player of the Year award this year. And in the end, all of that lobbying may just pay off.
I'm not going to come in here and tell you that Jordan SHOULD win the DPOY -- he probably should not, for a lot of the reasons that Justin Russo thoroughly elucidates in his piece on this subject, and one of those reasons in particular which I'll get to in a moment. But in the end I don't think that will matter.
Let's start with the one big reason that he should not win, a reason that Justin points out as well -- the DPOY almost always comes from a top 5 defensive team or at least a top 10 defensive team. And the Clippers have not been particularly good defensively this season, currently sitting at 16th in Defensive efficiency. So if Doc Rivers really, really wants DeAndre to win the award, he should be lobbying his team to play better defense at least as hard as he has been lobbying the media that DJ is worthy.
Having said that, here are the factors that favor Jordan:
Although the vote has clearly gotten more sophisticated in recent years, most people still don't understand defensive metrics well. So with apologies to Justin, while he's right about on/off and d-ratings and the like, it just doesn't matter. You'd think they'd know better, but the writers who vote for DPOY just don't get that stuff. If they did, why would Joakim Noah have won the award last season when the Bulls weren't significantly worse without him than they were with him? (On/off is tricky regardless as it depends so heavily on other factors like who is off the floor for the other team. Does anyone really think the Clippers are a better defensive team without Jordan on the floor? I didn't think so.)
What voters clearly do understand are rebounds and blocked shots. Even in seasons when a player with less impressive rebounding and blocked shot numbers won the award, many voters gave the nod to guys like Serge Ibake who were at the top of those statistical categories. Jordan is tops in rebounding by a country mile and fourth in blocked shots, within a good game's reach of second. Anthony Davis will lead the league, and the Pelicans are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. So basically, the traditional, simple shot-blocking and rebounding center vote goes to Jordan across the board. That's probably enough.
In addition, it helps Jordan tremendously that he is so widely considered an All Star Game snub. Blake Griffin's injury and Jordan's subsequent statistical explosion shone a bright spotlight on DJ while the game was happening. Here's a guy who AVERAGED 16 points and 17 rebounds in February, the actual month of the All Star Game, without making the team. The Clippers are on national TV a lot, people have talked about his omission a lot, and voters are not above giving slighted players consolation prizes. I expect that to happen here.
Finally, don't underestimate Doc's influence here. Rivers is incredibly well respected by the press corps, and more than one reporter will be convinced that if Doc says it, it must be true. Sure he's got a massive conflict of interest, but it doesn't mean he has no influence. Defense, as we've said many times, is difficult to evaluate. The easy way out for guys with votes is to take Doc's word for it that Jordan deserves the award, and some will take the option.
I would not expect Jordan to win were there an obvious alternative. I agree with Justin that Draymond Green is the logical choice, but I'm not convinced that the voters will agree. (If they do, I'll have to admit that the DPOY vote has reached evolved more than I thought.) Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that even though Golden State has the highest rated defense in the league, they're not really known as a defensive team -- writers still would rather talk about the Splash Brothers. And who are the other great defensive team statistically? Houston? Dwight Howard's been hurt too much and they don't have another candidate that anyone will get behind. Milwaukee? Giannis Antetokounmpo might get some votes, but who are we kidding. Tim Duncan is a legitimate candidate, but I don't see it happening.
In the end, I think voting for DeAndre Jordan will be the path of least resistance and he'll get enough to get over the top. If the Clippers can play better defensively over the final 20 games, it will help his case tremendously. But assuming they're better and not worse, I think a combination of influence and raw numbers will make it happen -- deserved or not.