For the third time in the last four seasons, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Of course defense has been the calling card for the Los Angeles Lakers under Frank Vogel for the past two seasons, and the team again had the best defensive rating in the NBA.
With Anthony Davis injured for much of the season, the Lakers’ defensive impact was more of a team effort without an individual standout, but that doesn’t mean some players don’t deserve recognition and that was the case for starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
While his shooting was extremely inconsistent this season, Caldwell-Pope always gave maximum effort on the defensive end of the floor and one media member recognized this. The voting results for the Defensive Player of the Year revealed that Caldwell-Pope received one third place vote for the award, via the NBA’s PR Twitter:
This is the third NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for Rudy Gobert. He is the fourth player to win the award at least three times, joining Dikembe Mutombo (four), Ben Wallace (four) and Dwight Howard (three).
More ➡️ https://t.co/63VBakX4xU
Full voting results ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Cmv6yR3SnC
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) June 10, 2021
Caldwell-Pope isn’t the biggest shooting guard, but he has great lateral quickness and good hands. When combined with his endless effort it allows him to be a positive on that end of the floor as he often guards the opposing team’s best wing.
The impact a defender such as Caldwell-Pope has is very difficult to measure as it doesn’t always lead to countable stats such as steals and blocks. But just because the numbers don’t jump off the page, it doesn’t mean a player isn’t an outstanding defender.
The Lakers guard has been the target of criticism from many throughout his tenure with the Lakers, though he was undoubtedly outstanding during the team’s 2020 championship run. Now his work on the defensive end has been recognized as well.
Caldwell-Pope reflects on ‘tough’ injury-filled Lakers season
Caldwell-Pope was not immune to the injury issues that plagued the Lakers season, especially in the playoffs where he was hampered by a knee issue. Overall, Caldwell-Pope admitted that the injuries really made the entire season difficult.
“It was tough,” Caldwell-Pope said of 2020-21. “We had injuries throughout the season, guys missing 15-20 games out of the rotation and then trying to throw them back in the rotation kind of like I don’t want to say messed up the chemistry as much but it’s learning on the go and when that does happen, that set us back some time. Then injuries in the postseason, which hurt us a lot.”
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