Much like the criteria for the Offensive Player of the Year list, to be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, your team must be above-average defensively with you on the floor, and you also must have had a large enough role so that your defense has impacted the win-loss count.
Statistics used are via HoopsDB – plus (+) still indicates a good differential for the on-off defensive rating metric used. Players are listed in no particular order.
DANE PINEAU (Melbourne)
Pineau has played almost exclusively at center this season, often giving up size to the bulkier bigs. He makes up for this with his movement and smarts however, as he is very attentive, he can defend in the pick and roll, he has active hands, and he doesnt mind taking contact. Impressive numbers with a young Tigers roster.
1.4 BLK | 1.4 STL | 19.8% DREB | 3.4 FLS
97.4 on-court DRtg | +16.6 on-off court DRtg differential
KUANY KUANY (Ballarat)
The two dominant defensive teams this season have been Geelong and Ballarat - Kuany is one of five guys on this list from those teams. He's disciplined and shows good intent to navigate through screens, and he also has the body-type to defend point-guard through to small-forward.
0.1 BLK | 1.1 STL | 9.0% DREB | 2.3 FLS
98.1 on-court DRtg | +11.2 on-off court DRtg differential
LEWIS THOMAS (Geelong)
Thomas is now a regular in this conversation after helping lead two quality defensive teams in his previous SEABL seasons. He’s played both front-court positions for this team, after playing mostly at center for Mount Gambier and Hobart, and has done it with success thanks to his mobility and attention to the opposition.
0.7 BLK | 1.2 STL | 19.1% DREB | 1.8 FLS
98.0 on-court DRtg | +12.7 on-off court DRtg differential
OWEN ODIGIE (Kilsyth)
Odigie has missed time this season but, interestingly, he has still finished close to the same amount of minutes as he did last year when he was named the SEABL’s best defensive player. Unlike the two-way players on this list, Odigie is more of a defensive specialist with less of an offensive role. He’s got good strength, size, quickness and athleticism – an ideal wing defender who knows his job.
0.5 BLK | 1.3 STL | 16.7% DREB | 2.8 FLS
101.1 on-court DRtg | +8.4 on-off court DRtg differential
DENG ACUOTH (Ballarat)
Acuoth propelled Melbourne to an above-average defense with him on the floor last season, despite minimal defensive personnel around him, so to now see him play in a system with so much talent is a big change. He’s slight and can get pushed around one-on-one against bulkier players, but his ability to recover or help his teammates with his shot-blocking is elite.
3.2 BLK | 1.0 STL | 18.7% DREB | 2.1 FLS
98.3 on-court DRtg | +8.4 on-off court DRtg differential
NAJEAL YOUNG (Frankston)
Dan Trist’s inclusion in the Frankston line-up has triggered a run of wins, but before that it was Young who stabilised the Blues defense. His versatility, athleticism, and quickness at power-forward has been the perfect tonic to compliment this group and hide any of their weaknesses.
0.3 BLK | 1.5 STL | 19.8% DREB | 3.0 FLS
102.8 on-court DRtg | +11.8 on-off court DRtg differential
DEMARCUS GATLIN (Geelong)
Gatlin is the best athlete at his size in the league, meaning that he can guard any point-guard or wing. With a quality big behind him, he can be aggressive and help generate turnovers, something Geelong do more than any other team. I wouldn’t read anything into his ‘on-off court’ number – the team is still defending at an elite rate with him on, he plays a ton, and he’s been a positive every other season.
0.5 BLK | 2.4 STL | 10.8% DREB | 2.4 FLS
102.2 on-court DRtg | -9.9 on-off court DRtg differential
JOSH SYKES (Eltham)
The best vertical athlete in the league. Sykes starts games at power-forward but also plays some center with Simon Bradbury off the floor. He’s certainly at his best when he can play as the help-defender, and challenge shots at the rim, as he can get caught out of position when navigating screens or defending the perimeter. He does have tools to help make up for his mistakes though, and he's a huge deterrent inside the paint, so overall he's a worthy name among the top ten.
2.6 BLK | 1.3 STL | 17.9% DREB | 3.3 FLS
105.4 on-court DRtg | +18.7 on-off court DRtg differential
JERRY EVANS (Ballarat)
Like what was said regarding Evans’ offense, he can fill a number of gaps on defense as well. With both quality defensive bigs and guards around him, Evans helps create havoc in-between. He’s got a great physical profile to be able to guard multiple types of players, he gets his hands to errant passes, he can deter shots as an on or off-ball defender, and he’ll grab the rebound to kick-start offense.
0.7 BLK | 1.9 STL | 17.4% DREB | 2.3 FLS
97.0 on-court DRtg | +12.4 on-off court DRtg differential
DAIN SWETALLA (Nunawading)
The Spectres have cobbled together an above-average defense again despite a lot of moving parts this season. Swetalla marginally gets this spot over Tom Wright due to playing more minutes, as well as the idea that his fit next to Simon Conn goes a fair way to giving the team their defensive identity. Even in his thirties, Swetalla still has some eye-popping athleticism left to go along with a real physicality and presence.
0.3 BLK | 0.9 STL | 24.0% DREB | 2.8 FLS
105.9 on-court DRtg | +3.8 on-off court DRtg differential