Originally written on Project Spurs  |  Last updated 11/18/14
San Antonio Spurs fans haven't been too happy since hearing the news that Marc Gasol and not Tim Duncan won Defensive Player of the Year for the regular season. Gasol received 212 points and 30 first-place votes to edge Miami's LeBron James, who had 149 points and 18 first-place votes, the NBA announced Wednesday. The 7-foot-1 Spaniard averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals for a Memphis defense that allowed a league-best 88.7 points per game. The five-year veteran ranked 12th in the league in blocks. Memphis became the first team to hold opponents below 90 points per game in a season since 2005-06 when both the Grizzlies (88.5) and San Antonio (88.8) accomplished the feat. (NBA.com) This was a tremendous accomplishment for Gasol and the Grizzlies' team as a whole. He became the first European player to win the award and the Grizzlies became the first team to allow less than 90ppg in the league during a time when a fast paced offense is the norm. Gasol's statistics weren't that impressive and that's where the Tim Duncan debate comes in. Spurs fans are disappointed (maybe best to describe them as angry) that Duncan didn't come close in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year. While personally I do think he should've been Top 2 or 3 in the voting, there's can be a case made for Gasol winning the this award. Duncan did have better defensive statistics with 9.9rpg and 2.7bpg and there's many who throw in he did all this at 36 years old. Age shouldn't matter anyway, but there's stats that make Gasol a more reasonable pick for the award. The team defensive average has to be the most important. Gasol's anchoring of that defense mirrors the argument for Duncan, but with one huge difference. The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard who can guard multiple positions next to Duncan and also a good defensive big man next to him in Tiago Splitter. Duncan averaged less minutes on the floor than Gasol and played 718 minutes less than Gasol this regular season. The Big Fundamental was hampered by injuries late in the season, but the majority came from rest for the playoffs. One of the Spurs' biggest strengths was depth this past season, something the Grizzlies lacked. After Duncan, the Spurs could plug in Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair, or Stephen Jackson (when he was on the team). The Grizzlies didn't have that luxury with Gasol, who was forced to play extended minutes to keep his team in games. The statistic argument shouldn't be relied on too much in this instant either. With San Antonio's overall depth, Duncan did more with more while Gasol did more overall with less. Spurs fans will remember Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) winning the Defensive Player of the Year award that year with 5.3rpg and 2.1spg. This was another year the San Antonio fans voiced their frustration because they thought Bruce Bowen was a more deserving recipient. Bowen's stat line was less than impressive with 3.1rpg and 1.0spg that season. Their reasoning was the box score didn't do Bowen's game justice, who depended more on contesting shots and being a pest to his opponents. The same can be said of Gasol, who's a good man defender and is one of the top big men in the league who can defend the pick and roll, something that Duncan doesn't do well at this point of his career. There's more to both men's games than the box score and they're proving it in their own ways. Tim Duncan is having the better season and is arguably having the better overall season of the two, but Marc Gasol is definitely the anchor to Memphis' stingy defense this season. While stats may play in favor for Duncan, there's also other stats and factors (like depth, minutes, etc.) that play against him. Gasol playing more than 700 minutes over Duncan hurt the San Antonio Spurs' cornerstone, but that's by design. The majority of those lost minutes was due to rest for the playoffs and isn't that what matters in the end? The Spurs have had their share of regular season awards such as the Sixth Man of the Year for Manu Ginobili, but there wasn't a championship followed by it and it's considered a lost year. The same can be said for Duncan. After all, isn't Duncan's fifth ring all that matters in the end for him?
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