Winning the defensive player of the year award has nothing to do with statistics and win shares. It’s about hype, and until this time, LeBron James hasn’t been able to generate enough of it to get himself the only individual award he seems to be missing. The plan on how to achieve it? Simply playing excellent defense as a team from the moment this season kicks off, unlike last year.
It took James some time before his defensive skills were recognized. In truth, his heart wasn’t that into it during the first half of his career. All that athleticism, speed and upper body strength were used on offense. On defense, let’s be frank, he was a little bit lazy.
He’s been a All-Defensive first team selection for the past five seasons, and for the last couple of years might have deserved to win the defensive player of the year award, which is actually a weird thing. Marc Gasol won the award last season, but wasn’t included in the first team selection. It might go to show you just how “meaningful” this award is, but James keeps talking about being remembered as the greatest. Picking up this award, especially as a non-center, is a big deal.
The Heat allowed 100.6 points per game, ranking only 23rd-best league-wide after 17 games. Things picked up later on, giving up just 93.6 points per game, the fourth-best rate in the NBA over that span, as they went on to win 66 games, winning home court advantage through the playoffs, which proved to be vital in both their series against the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs.
And while the things the Heat do on offense – spreading the floor with four shooters or finding the mid-range game against the Spurs in the final two games, defense has been at the heart of their success. It was especially true in the series against the Indiana Pacers and that big win in game 7, which was about completely shutting down an offense that troubled them in the first six games.
Individual awards aside, there’s nothing more important than winning the championship, making it a three-peat and becoming a part of NBA lore and mythology. Two titles are good, but three-peats are unforgettable, eternal. A DPOY award for James won’t change the way he’s looked at by historians and fans 10-15 years from now. However, for the ongoing and never ending debate about being the G.O.A.T, adding that into the resume always comes in handy.