Some might say it’s an honor, and others might say it’s a travesty. Either way, the Milwaukee Bucks – who have three players who earned their way into the conversation for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award – do not have the honor of recognizing Brook Lopez this year. According to The Athletic’s Eric Nehm, Lopez came in second to Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies.
As the ballot above indicates, it was a close race! Opponents had a wet and wild time when they tried to get on line for Splash Mountain this season, only to find out that most of them didn’t meet the height requirement to scale the 7’0” behemoth. The Bucks boasted the fourth-best defensive rating in the league (110.9, only a few fractions of a point behind Memphis at 110.7) and it was (of course) largely due to Brook’s presence. Lopez was third overall in the league with 2.5 blocks per game, but had the most total blocks as he accumulated four more rejections than Jackson Jr. overall (193 to 189). Milwaukee also allowed the fourth-fewest field goals attempted within 10 feet of the rim on the season, and on an individual level, Lopez averaged far fewer personal fouls per 100 possessions than Jackson (4.0 per 100 vs. 5.9 for the DPOY voting winner). The Bucks, as usual, also ranked highly in defensive rebounding percentage (second overall, at 74.5%) while Memphis was in the bottom-third in the same metric (22nd overall, 71.1%).
All in all, Brook Lopez had a strong claim to the award, and Jackson Jr. simply earned more attention from voters. I suppose the gaudy averages and more impressive (and athletic) defensive highlight reel was enough to give JJJ the nod, but we all appreciate Lopez’s resurgence this season, especially after missing most of last year while recovering from back surgery.
This may have been Brook’s best shot at getting the award, so coming up short leaves a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth (especially since Jackson Jr. is being touted as the award’s youngest winner since Dwight Howard). But, the Bucks are still chasing a championship, and I have a feeling that Brook would rather get a ring than the individual accolade.