Despite playing sparingly in the NBA for teams like the Magic and Thunder from 2011-13, it was clear DeAndre Liggins was an intriguing prospect. That said, he really wasn't afforded the opportunity to strut his stuff much to his liking.
But that all changed during the 2013-14 campaign. Though he was no longer gracing an NBA hardwood on a nightly basis, Liggins joined the Sioux Falls Skyforce. It was an a minor leaguer that Liggins received the coveted opportunity to prove his worth. Receiving ample playing time and being embraced in a central role, Liggins thrived, subsequently earning the D-League's Defensive Player of the Year award.
The young gun opted to cash in on his success in the forms of overseas contracts last season, going on to play in Germany and Russia. Opting to re-join Sioux Falls this past fall, Liggins has once again proven as a D-League athlete that not only has he failed to miss a beat, but he's that he's only continued to flourish along the way.
Dating back to his collegiate days at Kentucky, Liggins has always been considered quite the defensive hound. This past season was no different. But as fate would have it, the Skyforce have felt his impact more so than ever before. Liggins' respective prowess helped elevate the HEAT affiliate to atop of the defensive rankings in all of the minor league. They were the best team in the league on that end of the floor.
The 28 year old's own individual defensive ranking was relatively high as well. What's more, he also averaged an impressive 2.1 steals per contest. Liggins' presence in the Skyforce lineup is constantly an imperative one, because it provides the team with one of the most reliable defenders in all of the league. One of the most imposing and pestering one-on-one defenders, he isn't one to back down from any challenge. Liggins can handle guarding some of the league's more potent offensive options from three, or arguably even four, different positions. His mental toughness, on-the-court attitude, and respective physicality all add to how/why he easily stands in the way of a talented scorer getting his way. Liggins ensures it doesn't happen on his watch very often.
As a result, he played a big part in the team amassing a 40-10 record. Taking all of this into consideration, there's no doubt Liggins has earned himself RidiculousUpside.com's Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2015-16 campaign.
Runner-up for RU's DPOY award: Darion Atkins, whose physicality led to him averaging a near 1.4 blocks and 1 steal for the Westchester Knicks.
Second runner-up for RU's DPOY award: Vince Hunter, who emerged as an unique defensive anchor for the high-powered Reno Bighorns. He posted averages of 11.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1 steal.
Third runner-up for RU's DPOY award: Greg Whittington, who averaged 2.1 steals and 1 block per game for Sioux Falls.
Last season's winner: Eric Griffin, Texas Legends