The case for defensive player of the year candidate Victor Wembanyama

Victor Wembanyama has been majestic with stunning defensive stats, but should that equate to a defensive player of the year candidacy despite poor team defense?
Victor Wembanyama, Keldon Johnson
Victor Wembanyama, Keldon Johnson / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Victor Wembanyama might not be the immediate frontrunner, but his defensive impact demands attention in the race for Defensive Player of the Year consideration. Just watch San Antonio Spurs games and focus on Wemby's defense. Watch him deter players from the basket, shut down passing lanes, close off driving windows, and flat-out destroy a careless shot attempt if you think for a moment he is taking a possession off.

These numbers are great, but his recent positional shift has elevated an already impressive stat line. In the past eight games, Wembanyama's transition from power forward to center has been nothing short of spectacular. He's become a defensive linchpin, averaging 18.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.5 blocks, and 1.3 steals in that span.

For the sake of comparison, Hakeem Olajuwon averaged 1.8 steals and 4.2 blocks per game in the first year he won DPOY in 1993. Wemby's presence significantly alters the game defensively, evident in lineups without Victor when, all of a sudden, there is a party line in the lane for the opposition.

Wembanyama won't win the award but we would be negligent not to acknowledge it is not his fault

Reflecting on past Defensive Player of the Year winners like Tyson Chandler in 2012 offers an intriguing parallel. Chandler's statistical profile, while not eye-popping, captured his impact on the court. His rotations, shot deterrence, and rim protection were impeccable. Wembanyama mirrors these attributes seamlessly. Opponents driving to the basket think twice when faced with his imposing defensive stance, often altering their shots or passing up opportunities altogether.

Unfortunately, Wembanyama's chances will be marred by the Spurs' overall defensive struggles. However, this shouldn't overshadow his individual brilliance. His defensive acumen is evident in every slide, every blocked shot, and every abandoned attempt. He's a defensive force reshaping opponents' strategies, but his candidacy will be a victim of team circumstances, not individual performance.

In a perfect world, Wembanyama's defensive impact would be recognized despite the team's struggles. While the Defensive Player of the Year might remain out of reach, his contribution stands as a testament to his defensive dominance—a presence felt and feared across the court.