Here’s a quick look at candidates for Defensive Player of the Year. Note that all ranks are based off of players who had played 150+ minutes this year, and that these stats are from the morning of July 3.
Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury – Griner is certainly a front runner for her third career DPotY award. She’s easily leading the league in block percentage – the margin is 7.84% to 5.42%, which is a preposterous gap – and she’s fifth among all players in individual defensive box score plus minus (BPM). Weakening her case is that Phoenix is only fifth in the league in team defensive rating, allowing 102.2 points per 100 possessions. That’s a solid number, and only slightly behind the fourth place Seattle Storm, but it’s clear that they’re not challenging the top 3 Ds in the league (Dream, Lynx, Sparks) right now.
Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx – Another win for Fowles would move her into second all-time for DPotY wins, behind only Tamika Catchings’ 5. She’s helped lead the Lynx to the second best defensive rating in the league so far this year. Not only is she leading the league in steals per game, but her rank of fourth in defensive BPM indicates that her candidacy extends beyond the scoresheet.
Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks – 2017’s award winner, Beard is anchoring yet another great Sparks defense. She’s tied for third in steals per game so far this year and is the highest profile defensive contributor for the third best D in the league. She’s 9th place in defensive BPM, as well.
Elizabeth Williams & Jessica Breland, Atlanta Dream – It’s easy to overlook these two, with the Dream at just .500 and them sporting what is easily the worst offensive in the league. But both women have been dominant on the defensive end. Williams is second in block percentage and Breland fifth for a team that has the best defensive rating in the league. It’s not an overstatement to say that if this team was even slightly worse on defense, they’d be way out of the playoff picture.
Elizabeth Cambage, Dallas Wings – Second in the league with blocks per game, Cambage’s return to the WNBA has been a triumphant one. She falls a bit short of the impact of Griner, but if the Wings can surge from their current spot at 8-8, her name will be coming up more and more in this conversation.
Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm – 12th in defensive BPM, Howard is 3rd in the league in blocks percentage and 24th in steal percentage. Her impact’s a big part of why the team’s fourth in defensive rating this year.
Gabby Williams, Chicago Sky – Williams is a dark horse candidate, but the rookie is 3rd in steal percentage in the league, behind only Yvonne Turner of Phoenix and Ariel Atkins of Washington. Williams is obviously playing much more than either of those two as well. The problem for her is that the Sky are sub-.500 and they have the worst team defensive rating in the league. Frankly, Williams won’t get many votes this year, but if she holds true to her play so far this year, she’ll be a candidate well into the future.