NBA

Elite rim protection makes Rudy Gobert the choice for Defensive Player of the Year for 2017-18 NBA season

Jay Asser 14/06/2018
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Rudy Gobert is the defensive rock of the Jazz.

With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards and here, we look at Defensive Player of the Year.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)

11 06 2018 NBA defense-gobert

It’s hard to discern where to draw the line when it comes to players missing time and still being deserving of individual honours.

Gobert is one of those cases as he missed 26 of Utah’s first 44 games. However, his impact after his return was so obvious that it feels wrong to penalise him for his injury in the first half of the season.

When he was on the court, the Jazz had a defensive rating of 97.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, a mark that would have comfortably ranked first in the league.

As the NBA’s best rim protector, Gobert legitimately affects opposing players’ point-blank shots, by both swatting and altering them. There’s a reason he has the nicknames ‘Stifle Tower’ and ‘French Rejection’.

Gobert’s presence in the paint also scares away players from attacking the rim in a way that isn’t quantifiable.

He’s not the prototype for the ideal defensive player in today’s game, with someone like Draymond Green arguably more valuable for his versatility and ability to guard all over the court, but Gobert does what he does extremely well.

After finishing as the DPOY runner-up in 2017, Gobert is deserving of finally breaking through.

WORTHY MENTIONS

Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Embiid

Like Gobert, Embiid is a brick wall at the rim and a deterrent to any player who wants to risk driving to the basket. His blocks per game dropped from last season – 2.5 to 1.8 – but the 76ers centre was the pillar of a Philadelphia defence that finished third in the league in defensive rating with 102.0 points.

Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

There isn’t a more complete defender among big men than Davis, who can lock down a guard on the perimeter and then rotate over to swat a shot in the same possession. The combination of his mobility and size makes him a devastating weapon, as evidenced by his 2.6 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.

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NBA

Houston Rockets ace James Harden has clear-cut case for MVP of 2017-18 NBA season

Jay Asser 14/06/2018
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James Harden was the best player on the best regular-season team this season.

With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards. Here’s how we see the MVP race shaking out.

Most Valuable Player

James Harden (Houston Rockets)

11 06 2018 NBA mvp-harden

After runner-up finishes in MVP voting two of the past three years, it finally appears as if Harden will get his shine in the spotlight after a stellar campaign.

His case is unassailable. Harden was the best player on the best team during the regular season and led the league in scoring with 30.4 points per game, while also averaging the fourth-most assists at 8.8.

No player utilised isolations more as he cleared out and attacked 10 times per game, scoring 1.22 points per possession. Even when he didn’t get a basket, he was a master at drawing fouls, getting to the free throw line for a league-leading 10.1 attempts per game.

And when help defenders would take a step or two in his direction, Harden would fire passes to Houston’s shooters on the perimeter to make the opposition pay.

He was the engine that made the Rockets’ deadly offence run and his value to the dominance was undeniable.

Harden isn’t the best player in the league, but if you define the MVP as an award given to the player who had the best season, no one else comes all that close to Houston’s dynamo.

WORTHY MENTIONS

LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)

LeBron

LeBron could win the MVP every season and it would never feel like the wrong decision. But even though he’s the undisputed player in the world, it’s hard to reward James for a season in which his team wildly fluctuated and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference. That said, we should never take his gaudy production for granted – 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds and 62.1 true shooting percentage.

Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

Anthony Davis

Davis made a charge for MVP after DeMarcus Cousins‘ suffered a season-ending injury at the end of January, going on a ridiculous run to average 35.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 2.5 steals in February. He couldn’t keep up the breakneck pace, but Davis still finished with monster numbers as arguably the best two-player in the league this season.

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NBA

Gaafar ElSouri ramps up the force with plyo exercises to get back on court

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Road to recovery: Gaafar ElSouri

This week, we’ve been tracking the progress of injured basketball player Gaafar ElSouri on his road to recovery following career-threatening knee surgery.

Twelve months ago the Sudanese athlete found himself on the treatment table after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). What followed were months and months of recovery to get back into peak condition.

Not only did the injury rob ElSouri of his favourite sport, he also had to deal with the mental battle of getting back to full fitness. Before his injury his basketball career saw him play all around the world, in Europe, Southeast Asia and Canada. Keen to get back on the court, he set about rebuilding his fitness with a set of tailor-made exercise routines he put together himself.

Today’s video shows examples of plyometric exercises, which are compound movements that aim to generate maximum force as quickly as possible. The exercises are beneficial for challenging fast-twitch muscle fibres, coordination, agility and strength and endurance. Exercises include single leg step ups – a unilateral leg exercise which aims to improve symmetry and balance. It also increases lower body strength and develops leg power. Front box jumps – this exercise develops explosive power by improving the reach of fast-twitch muscle fibres throughout the body. Double scissor jumps – a workout exercise used to enhance hamstring and hip strength, overall lower body strength to develop explosive power and body control. The video clip also includes jump squat med balls slams and split stance med ball throws. It’s a compound exercise used to enhance reaction speed and explosiveness along with power and agility.

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