I got together with the D-League blogosphere (myself, Jon L and Mike Gansey from Ridiculous Upside, Steve Weinman from D-League Digest and Matt Hubert from Blog Talk BayHawk) a while back to discuss the best in the D-League from the regular season. What'd we talk about? Well, all sorts of things pertaining to the D-League.
In the end, though, we decided to give out the same awards that the D-League coaches vote on: Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Impact Player of the Year and Coach of the Year - as well as our own All-D-League teams.
Today, the D-League named Stiemsma their defensive player of the year, though I assume it was a rather close battle.
How close? Probably as close as their battle for the most blocks ever in an NBA Development League season: Looby swatted 166 shots over the course of 50 games to finish with a 3.3 average. Stiemsma, on the other hand, battled injuries in early December that limited him to just 44 starts - though he still blocked 162 shots for a 3.6 average.
Obviously shot blocking isn't the only thing that a player should have to do to earn a defensive player of the year award (we also had votes for Jackie Manuel and Renaldo Major), but when they were that good at it, it obviously makes it relevant.
My first place vote went to Stiemsma based on just one factor: his physical presence inside. Who wants to drive the lane to meet a behemoth like him when they could instead hang out on the perimeter? It wasn't solely the shot blocking presence, but just the formidable inside presence that he gave the Skyforce earned him my vote for D-League Defensive Player of the Year. It also didn't hurt that the Skyforce felt the need to keep him around despite his low point and rebounding totals.
Jon L's vote didn't go to Stiemsma (and therefore Looby) for the following reason: I didn't include Stiemsma because I think he too often just goes for the block rather than just playing defense, and so he ends up in foul trouble (I think you've made this point before).
I can agree with that argument ( and actually, like Jon says, I already have), but I don't know how to give Looby the Defensive Player of the Year knowing that he averaged less blocks, seemed to be less of an interior presence and was traded twice on the season. If he was really that valuable on the defensive end wouldn't his teams keep him? It also seems to reason that since Stiemsma received a call-up, he might be more valuable - though we learned earlier today that call-ups don't mean everything.
All said, I think I'm giving the D-League coaches the thumbs up compared to our rankings when it comes to defensive player of the year.