The NBA announced Wednesday that New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler earned Defensive Player of the Year honors for the 2011/12 season, ending Dwight Howard's three-year reign as the league's top defender. Chandler edged Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka for the award, while the Orlando Magic's Howard finished third.
In his first season with the Knicks, Chandler averaged 9.9 rebounds (6.5 defensive) and 1.4 blocks per game, helping New York finish with the league's fifth-most efficient defense. In addition, Chandler appeared in 62 of a possible 66 games. In comparison, Howard led the league with 14.5 rebounds (10.8 defensive) and tallied 2.1 blocks per game, albeit in just 54 appearances.
As Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones points out, Howard arguably has a stronger case than Chandler for the award: "Dwight grabbed a higher percentage of defensive rebounds, blocked a higher percentage of shots, stole a higher percentage of balls and bested Tyson in basically every defensive category available, even down to defensive win shares, despite the fact Dwight played eight fewer games."
That Howard played on a less defensively talented team and made fewer appearances than Chandler hurt his cause, Kerby speculates. The drama surrounding his forthcoming free-agency Howard created also turned into a PR mess for the eight-year veteran, giving voters another excuse to vote Chandler.
Howard received 18 first-place votes, 23 second-place votes, and 27 third-place votes, while 53 voters left him of their ballots entirely. LeBron James finished fourth in the award voting, while Kevin Garnett finished fifth.