While offense is certainly glamorous and entertaining to watch, it's what happens on the other side of the ball that truly impacts the game - defense. In the NBA D-League, there are numerous high-scoring affairs that occur on a nightly basis, but it was rare to see those break out during Sioux Falls Skyforce games. Why? Because of Justin Hamilton - the most deserving player of the league's Defensive Player of the Year award.
The 7-foot center impacted games like no other D-Leaguer this season, whether he was altering shots, blocking shots or simply playing quality defense against his opponent. His impressive play on both ends of the floor became noticed and he received multiple call-ups to the NBA this season.
Hamilton led his Skyforce squad to the best defensive rating in the league and consistently kept the opposing offense under the century mark. In the 39 games he appeared in, teams failed to reach 100-points 23 times. From March 4 - 20, during two of Hamilton's stints in the NBA, Sioux Falls couldn't hold their opponents under 100-points a single time. Once he returned, he played in two games and reminded everyone just how big of a difference maker he is. Hamilton grabbed a total of 17 defensive rebounds and blocked four shots, while ensuring the Idaho Stampede - a team that averages 108.6 points per game - were held under the 100-mark in both games.
The 24-year-old also emerged as a top shot-swatter. He blocked two shots per game, good for fourth overall in the D-League, while only committing 2.1 fouls in 35.6 minutes per game, highlighting his effectiveness. His individual defensive rating of 98.2 ranks fifth among players who have appeared in at least half of their team's 50 games. Staying active is a key to success in basketball, and Hamilton seemed to excel in all aspects of this area.
There are certainly other strong candidates for the award, such as Dallas Lauderdale of the Stampede and DeAndre Liggins, a fellow Skyforce player. Despite their cases, Hamilton has earned the honor and should be expected to be the anchor of defenses for years to come, whether in the D-League, NBA or elsewhere.
Below is a compilation of Hamilton's defense, put together by RU writer Dakota Schmidt: