The NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award is given to the best defensive player of the regular season. Throughout the years, we’ve seen various defensive aces receive the award, including Ben Wallace, Dennis Rodman, Metta Sandiford-Artest, Rudy Gobert, and many more. But while the greatest defensive players have received the award, it’s unfortunate that some great defensive players never got to win the award in their careers. For this piece, let’s take a look at 10 best NBA players to never win Defensive Player of the Year.
Some active players such as LeBron James, Myles Turner, Serge Ibaka, Andre Iguodala, Chris Paul, and Bam Adebayo have made their cases to win Defensive Player of the Year. Although they have yet to win one, given that they’re still active in the NBA, we’ll put them first in the Honorable Mention section.
10. Bruce Bowen
Bruce Bowen successfully defended some of the most lethal perimeter scorers in the game including Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, and many more. For his defensive efforts, Bowen earned eight All-Defensive team selections and helped the Spurs win three NBA championships. However, Bowen never received the Defensive Player of the Year Award after losing to Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace in the 2000-2001 and 2002-2003 seasons, respectively.
9. Andrei Kirilenko
Known as AK47, Andrei Kirilenko was a stellar all-around player coming from Russia. Kirilenko held the fort for the Utah Jazz franchise after the departure of cornerstones Karl Malone and John Stockton. The Russian standout made his mark on both ends of the floor, earning an All-Star appearance. Kirilenko also locked down opposing players, averaging 1.9 steals and 2.8 rejections per game during the 2003-2004 season to finish fifth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.
8. Shawn Marion
Shawn Marion was one of the instrumental pieces for the Phoenix Suns before helping the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA championship in 2011. However, the four-time All-Star was never given recognition for his defensive efforts throughout his career. In fact, as an undersized power forward, he defended the likes of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. But given that the Suns were more known for their offense, Marion’s defensive tenacity was often overlooked by NBA fans. However, he did finish fourth during the Defensive Player of the Year race in the 2006-2007 season before losing to Marcus Camby.
7. Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas was the centerpiece of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons during the late 80s. Although Thomas was a great facilitator, his offense often overshadowed his defensive abilities. In fact, Thomas averaged 2.5 steals and 0.4 rejections per game in two different seasons. However, playing alongside defensive aces Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars prevented Thomas from standing out defensively. Nevertheless, Thomas still led the Pistons to back-to-back titles.
6. Bill Russell
Bill Russell was the anchor of the Boston Celtics dynasty that went on to win 11 NBA championships. Towing off the competition, Russell dominated on both ends of the floor. However, given that the Defensive Player of the Year award didn’t exist yet, the award was never given to Russell. In fact, blocks were still unofficial during his time. Russell certainly deserved the award after unofficially registering 10 blocks on one occasion.
5. Wilt Chamberlain
Like Russell, Chamberlain existed at a time when blocks weren’t officially tallied yet. But more importantly, there was also no Defensive Player of the Year Award just yet. Chamberlain once recorded a quintuple-double of 53 points, 32 rebounds, 14 assists, 24 blocks, and 11 steals. Those numbers should speak for themselves.
4. John Stockton
As the NBA’s All-Time leader in steals, it’s a surprise that John Stockton was never given the award at least once. Nevertheless, Stockton was one of the best defensive guards during his era. In fact, he earned five All-Defensive Second-Team Selections during his lengthy career. The closest he got to the Defensive Player of the Year Award was during the 1990-1991 season. During that season, he averaged 1.6 steals per game.
3. Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen was arguably the best perimeter defender during his era. In fact, his two-way play was instrumental in the Chicago Bulls’ double three-peat in the 90s. During the 1994-1995 season, Pippen once led the league in steals, averaging 2.9 per outing. Unfortunately, playing second fiddle to the GOAT and former Defensive Player of the Year in Michael Jordan also has its own set of cons. Furthermore, Pippen never really found much success as the Bulls’ face during Jordan’s temporary retirement.
2. Patrick Ewing
As once the New York Knicks face of the franchise, Patrick Ewing was one of the best centers in the league and rim protection was one of Ewing’s best skills. Ewing once averaged a career-high 4.0 rejections per game during the 1989-1990 season. Furthermore, he made nine All-Defensive teams during his career. Ewing was often a fixture in the Defensive Player of the Year race but never won the award.
1. Tim Duncan
As an elite power forward, Tim Duncan does his damage on the hardwood with fundamental and sound plays. However, it’s a surprise that Duncan never won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, despite holding his own against the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Dennis Rodman, Kevin Garnett, and Yao Ming. Throughout his career, Duncan averaged 2.2 blocks per game. Although he earned 15 All-Defensive Team selections, a Defensive Player of the Year Award remained elusive.