Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert named Defensive Player of the Year

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Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert owns a piece of an NBA record after winning the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award on Tuesday for the fourth time.

Gobert, 31, also won the honor in 2018, 2019 and 2021 with the Utah Jazz and joins Hall of Fame centers Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace as the only four-time winners.

The 7-foot-1 Gobert anchored the Timberwolves’ top-ranked defense this season. Minnesota allowed 108.4 points per 100 possessions, 2.2 fewer than the second-ranked Boston Celtics.

“It’s great teamwork,” Gobert told TNT’s “NBA Tip-Off” on Tuesday. “We love to get individual awards and all these things, and it’s great, but you can’t do it alone. I really have a lot of gratitude for … all my teammates for believing in me, allowing me to do what I do best every day and just try to change the culture here in Minnesota. It’s great for the guys for buying in.”

San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama, who was named the league’s Rookie of the Year on Monday, finished second in the voting. A rookie has never won the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo was third, his best finish in the voting.

Gobert, who missed Game 2 of the playoff series against the Denver Nuggets on Monday following the birth of his son, ranked sixth in the league with 2.1 blocked shots per game and limited opponents to 45.2 effective field goal percentage, the lowest among 38 players to contest at least 1,000 shots, according to Second Spectrum data. He ranked fourth in defensive rebounds with 9.2 per game.

His presence also served as a major deterrent. According to Second Spectrum, opponents attempted only 21.6% of their shots from inside the restricted area when Gobert was on the court, which would have ranked the lowest among any team this season. That increased to 26.7% when he was off the floor, which would have rated as the sixth highest among teams.

The Timberwolves held opponents to 56.6% shooting on dunk and layup attempts, the lowest rate in the NBA.

“This year, training camp, we came Day 1 and said we wanted to be a top defense in this league,” Gobert said. “Every guy has bought in. Everyone has put in the work every single day, and now we’re here with one goal in mind, to try to get this championship.

“… Great things take time. You guys all know winning is not something that happens overnight. You need to overcome adversity, you need to go through some ups and downs as a group.”

Gobert’s dominance extended beyond the paint. He thrived in switch situations, allowing the fewest points per direct isolations among players to defend at least 175 isolation possessions, according to Second Spectrum tracking. He also excelled as a pick-and-roll defender, allowing the third-fewest points per direct pick among screener defenders to defend at least 1,000 on-ball picks.

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

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