Did Adebayo Deserve DPOY Over Gobert?


After being left out of the top three for Defensive Player of the Year voting, Bam Adebayo could do one thing: laugh.

Adebayo wasn’t just deserving of the top three, but he deserved the award.

When Defensive Player of the Year gets brought up, I always think about the true meaning for the award. What does it mean? It means you are a dominant defender that can impact the game and can always hold their own in a matchup regardless of who is in front of you.

A true defender has versatility. Bam falls under that description. The Heat’s defensive system relies heavily on switches and allows a player to show how versatile they are– bringing out Bam’s best attribute.

Bam and I agree on this: he does everything on defense. There is no argument against it. Bam was robbed of being a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, and everything presented here will show you why.


Nobody in the NBA is capable of doing what Bam does to all five positions. There is no center as comfortable as Bam in picking up a guard and being alone in isolation. He will lock down a top-tier center and defend a guard better than some actual guards do.

What Bam has is a rare skill that has only been seen in the NBA a few times. We’ll go in-depth on the specifics of these matchups later, but let’s first take a look at specific players that Bam clamped up.

The former Kentucky Wildcat has no issue stepping out on the perimeter and guarding a smaller and faster guard. Two of the best scoring guards in the entire league in Kyrie Irving (27.1 PPG) and Devin Booker (25.6 PPG) were completely shut down by Bam.

Kyrie Irving

Against Kyrie, Bam completely eradicated the lone member of 2021’s 50-40-90 club and held him to a terrible 4/14 (28%) from the field. Of players that Irving took at least nine shots on, Bam held him to the lowest percentage.

The most skilled ball-handler in NBA history had trouble breaking Bam down.

Adebayo picks up Irving on the perimeter in most of these clips and stays in front of him the entire time and proceeds to force misses. There are no other bigs in the league that would pick up Uncle Drew on the perimeter with such confidence and produce great results. People that are Irving’s size struggle to keep up with his quickness and dribble moves, and 6’10 Bam had no trouble doing so.

That is the DPOY.

Devin Booker

One of the most skilled scorers in the entire NBA is Devin Booker, and Bam completely took him out of the game when the two matched up. Of players that Booker took at least 11 shots on, Adebayo held him to the lowest percentage (27%). As seen in the videos, Bam welcomes the isolation and steps above the three-point line, allowing Booker to drive in and block his shot.

Book’s quickness was eradicated by Bam. Most bigs either get dribbled by or the all-star would abuse the mismatch and attempt to dribble.

Clearly, most bigs aren’t like Bam.


Maybe the clips of him locking down some of the best players in the league wasn’t enough for you, so let’s look at statistics. Bam averaged 1.2 steals along with a block per game. The versatile center is just one of seven players in the entire league to average at least 1 block and steal per game. His competitors in Ben Simmons and Rudy Gobert both lack this feat.

According to nba.com/stats, we can see the exactly how Adebayo contained some of the best players in the NBA, regardless of position.

Analysis vs. Competition

After everything presented here, there is just no way that anybody else can be named the DPOY. When we look at Gobert and Simmons’ matchup statistics, it is clear Bam is more versatile and truly a better defender.

Before we get into this, I’m not saying Simmons or Gobert are bad defenders. They are both tremendous and should both be first-team All-Defense.

That being said, Bam deserved the award more than both of them.

vs. Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons is 6’11 and has a rare LeBron James-esque build of being as agile and quick as a guard at a giant height. Of course, because of his positioning and scheme, he usually guards people that are smaller than him. Additionally, Simmons has a dominant paint defender in Embiid that allows him to take free reign at 6’11.

That just isn’t fair and it is a little misleading. Bam Adebayo is 6’10, and doesn’t have the same rare build that Simmons has, and is a traditional center that takes on guards and succeeds in locking them down for that possession. We can take a look at some of the players that they both spent time guarding.

  • G/F Devin Booker:
    • vs. Simmons: 5/8 (62.5%)
    • vs. Adebayo: 3/11 (27.3%)
  • G/F LeBron James:
    • vs. Simmons: 4/7 (57.1%)
    • vs. Adebayo: 2/8 (25%)
  • F/C Julius Randle:
    • vs. Simmons: 4/6 (66.7%)
    • vs. Adebayo: 7/22 (31.8%)

While there are many more players they split time guarding, these three players have at least six shots taken on Adebayo/Simmons. There is clear disparity here with Adebayo being more dominant than Simmons. It’s baffling why Simmons was mentioned over Bam in this DPOY conversation.

vs. Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert’s top matchups are all centers, and he rarely held any of them to low percentages. Before we start the comparison, Rudy is one of the most premier paint defenders in the entire NBA, but defense often requires versatility. The Jazz center doesn’t hold his own on the perimeter and is exposed when a switch happens.

Despite being a dominant interior defender, he was not deserving of the award. We can take a look at a player that both Bam and Rudy spent time guarding. As shown by this video, Rudy gets toyed with most of the time by guards.

We can look at Bam guarding the same exact player in the same isolation situation. Bam is much more composed and actually welcomes the matchup. Booker attempts to dribble by Bam and is blocked. This isn’t the only play. As mentioned earlier, Booker shot 3/11 from the field when defended by the Heat big man. I know this is only one play, but there are plenty more video examples of Rudy being taken advantage of by guards.

We can also look at their matchups against a top center. Both Gobert and Bam have played Joel Embiid once.

  • vs. Gobert: 40 points, 19 rebounds and two turnovers.
  • vs. Adebayo: six points, two rebounds and four turnovers.

As the video below shows, watch Embiid choose to attack Gobert and go directly at him. This is no DPOY.

Now we can look at what Bam did to Embiid in their lone matchup. Bam held the MVP finalist to his worst statistical game of the entire season. Embiid was 1/3 in their matchup time and was completely shut down.

Will Bam win a DPOY?

I don’t think Bam will win DPOY even though he deserves it. It should be clear as day. The voters for the DPOY award appear to follow what everyone says. It doesn’t really have too much weight as it should because of this. If the media truly looked into it, they would see Bam has no business being left out of the DPOY finalist list, and should win the award. If Bam learned anything from this season, if you tell the media that you’re DPOY, they’ll push that narrative.

The problem is that he said it too late.

Additionally, Bam mentions in the video below that he isn’t the biggest name in the NBA like Rudy Gobert (3x DPOY) and former number one overall pick Ben Simmons.

Everything presented above proves how underrated Bam is and shows how deserving he is of the award. Very few if any major sports news outlets present how dominant he was against all five positions and had they done so, it could change the average fan’s perspective. Before Bam made the “I’m the DPOY” comment on TNT, I’m not sure that many people even considered him to be in the race.

If Bam had been covered like this all year, he would almost surely be the frontrunner.

After not making the All-Star game (even though he completely deserved it) and being snubbed in the DPOY conversation, the league should fear a truly angry Bam Adebayo.


About Blake Malick

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