Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should win this year's Defensive Player of the Year award. Now there are plenty of reasons out there why he shouldn't win it, and many of those are valid in the sense of why certain players win awards. However, the bottom line is that the player that wins DPOY is supposed to be the best defender in the NBA, or the player that has the largest impact on their team. Kidd-Gilchrist can fit in both of those categories.
Lets start off with recent trends of the award. For the last decade the only kinds of players to win DPOY were big men. Ben Wallace, Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett, etc all won the award thanks to the impact they had on the defensive end of the court. These players are not only thought to be some of the NBA's most elite defenders individually, but they were also anchors to some of the NBA's best defense's. The award has changed recently and moved away from going to the best individual defender, but to those that have the largest impact on their team's overall defense. More often than not these anchors will be big men, because they are protectors of the paint, and the last line of defense at the rim. In today's NBA especially, these big men are considered the most important part of any defense. This might explain why the last perimeter player to win DPOY was
Ron Artest Metta World Peace in 2004.
Obviously as a perimeter defender, history is not on Kidd-Gilchrist's side. But don't his qualifications as a defender stand up to those of Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, and Joakim Noah? Like those big men were, MKG is currently the anchor of his team's defense, and the sole person that keeps this defense at an elite level.
Towards the very beginning of the season, Kidd-Gilchrist suffered an injury that left him out for an extended period of time. During this time frame the Hornets defense was in the bottom half of the NBA, and a total mess. Al Jeffersonand Cody Zeller weren't defending the rim, and the replacements for MKG in his absence couldn't defend the way he could. The reason the defense fell apart was because they lost their anchor. During this stretch of games in November the Hornets were 22nd in the NBA in defensive rating, and by December 5th had only moved up to 18th. Ever since his return on December 10th, the Hornets have jumped to 7th in the NBA. This is almost exclusively because of MKG. A look at his on/off numbers shows that when MKG is on the floor Charlotte has a defensive rating of 94.8, and when he is off the floor it raises all the way to 104.1. That 10 point gap is large enough to have a major effect on Charlotte's record. Without Kidd-Gilchrist the Hornets are an abysmal 3-13, but with him they are 24-20, and one of the NBA's best defenses.
In fact, when using a sample size from December 10th, to March 7th, the Hornets have the second best defense in the NBA with a defensive rating of 97.3, putting them behind only the Milwaukee Bucks. If the sample size is reduced to go from January 1st, to March 7th, the Hornets are then ranked as the number one defense in the NBA. Who exactly is the anchor to the best defense in the NBA since January? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Even when not reducing the sample size the Hornets still are ranked 7th after starting the season all the way at 22nd, and it's all because of MKG's impact as an anchor.
So it's been established that MKG is as valuable and just as much of an anchor to a defense as any big man, but on top of all that he's arguably already the NBA's best perimeter defender. Most DPOY are one of the top, if not the best, defenders at their position and Kidd-Gilchrist is no exception. Are there any perimeter players in the NBA that can anchor a defense the way MKG does? Many consider the Grizzlies Tony Allen the NBA's best in perimeter defense, or Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll, but neither of those two are the main reason those defenses are successful. MKG is not only the sole reason for Charlotte's dominance on the defensive side of the ball, but he's also out there guarding the best scorer on the floor whether it's LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, or Russell Westbrook. He guards them all and he does it very well.
Right now, based on the criteria to receive the award, Kidd-Gilchrist should at worst be in the discussion, and one of the top vote getters, to win DPOY. However, there are a few other pre-requisites that award voters like to look at that can stand in MKG's way.
One of those is games played. Kidd-Gilchrist has missed a handful of games this year, and that's going to cost him some votes. He's missed 16 games this season due to injury, and meanwhile other candidates like Marc Gasol and Draymond Green have yet to miss a game all year. Green in particular has the advantage of being on the team currently ranked as the NBA's best defense for the entire season.
MKG will also have an even bigger problem, and that's wins and losses. Despite the Hornets having a winning record when MKG is playing, Charlotte is still under .500 on the year, and possesses a negative net rating on the season. That's more so because of how putrid the offense is, but the voters looking at wins and losses don't really care about that. They're going to see Marc Gasol winning 55 games, be the anchor of a known great defense, and he's going to get votes over a guy like Kidd-Gilchrist.
These are unfortunately factors that will go against Kidd-Gilchrist, and something that he can't really change. Perhaps if the Hornets can make their way above .500 he'll be able to steal some of those voters away, but for now anybody voting based on wins and losses, or games played, will put MKG at a serious disadvantage.
However, none of that should matter in the end. Kidd-Gilchrist might be 21 years old, but he's already the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and the anchor to a top 10 defense. His efforts alone have raised the Hornets from a bottom half defense, to the best defense since January. He does just as much, if not more, than any big man, and it's time to recognize this. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is your Defensive Player Of the Year, and games played, or a win/loss record shouldn't say otherwise.
All stats per NBA.com/stats