Victor Wembanyama vs. Rudy Gobert: The key stats you need to know in Defensive Player of the Year debate

The NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award is a two-man race down the stretch, according to the betting markets. BetMGM has Gobert as a prohibitive favorite at -900 odds. Wembanyama is a distant second at +700 odds. 

Despite that giant gap by Vegas bookmakers, the case between the two is closer than you might think. Wembanyama has an advantage in several statistical categories, and he’s putting up numbers in far fewer minutes.

Here’s what the comparison between leading Defensive Player of the Year candidates looks like. 

MORE: Victor Wembanyama is having the second-best rookie season of all time

Victor Wembanyama vs. Rudy Gobert stats

In some of the most basic defensive stats, Wembanyama has a sizeable edge over Gobert.

Both players are massive rim protectors, but Wembanyama is leading the league in blocks thanks to his 8-foot wingspan. Gobert’s 7-9 wingspan can’t quite reach that same level. 

Wembanyama Stat (per game) Gobert
3.4 Blocks 2.1
1.3 Steals 0.6
8.1 Defensive rebounds 9.2
2.9 Deflections 1.6

Wembanyama’s 3.4 blocks and 1.3 steals put him in elite company. Only five players have ever reached those totals in NBA history, and they all did it in way more than Wembanyama’s 28.8 minutes per game.

Wembanyama clearly has the advantage over Gobert in blocks and steals, and by a pretty wide margin. Where Gobert might have more influence is altering shots at the rim. 

One of the most important stats that voters like to look at is how well opposing players shoot from inside 6 feet against a defender. That stat shows that while Wembanyama gets his hand on more shots (8.2 contests per game compared to 7.9), Gobert forces more misses. 

Voters also like to look at all-in-one impact statistics, which measure how well a team performs while a player is on the floor. These adjust for the quality of teammates and opponents. Wembanyama looks like the more impactful defender in them. 

Wembanyama Stat Gobert
+3.3 Defensive EPM +2.6
+2.8 Defensive LEBRON +3.1
+3.3 Defensive RAPTOR +3.2

MORE: Draymond Green downplays Victor Wembanyama’s Defensive Player of the Year case

The most important stat for many voters is, of course, team success. The award is generally won by a player on a top-five defense.

That is what makes Wembanyama, whose Spurs currently rank 23rd on defense, a long shot to win. Gobert’s Wolves rank No.1 in the league. As their defensive anchor, he has a much stronger narrative behind him. 

Defensive Player of the Year prediction

Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama

(Getty Images)

Wembanyama shouldn’t be punished too harshly for his team’s lack of success. He was drafted onto the worst defense in league history, and the Spurs retained most of that roster to play alongside him. None of his teammates will be in contention for any defensive awards. Some of them (Keldon Johnson and Doug McDermott before getting traded) are considered well below average.

Gobert has a lot more help on his team. Jaden McDaniels will get All-Defensive consideration. Kyle Anderson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are above-average. Mike Conley is one of the smartest help defenders at his position. And Anthony Edwards is a good one-on-one defender who can make spectacular plays when he’s locked in. 

MORE: Anthony Edwards stuns NBA world with game-winning block vs. Pacers

Wembanyama is only 20 years old, but there’s a pretty strong case that he’s already the best defender in the league. His intimidation factor is massive. Players simply refuse to challenge him. 

The same can be said for Gobert, but while he has gotten better at guarding out on the perimeter, it’s still a weakness in his game. That is another area where Wembanyama has an advantage. 

One area where Gobert has the edge is in raw strength. Wembanyama is still a wispy 210 pounds to Gobert’s 258. Some players, such as Houston’s Alperen Sengun, have had success in muscling Wembanyama down low

At the end of the day, these are two amazing defenders who are way above everyone else in the league this year. If team success matters, then Gobert should be the winner. If the most impactful defender in the league should get the award, then it should go to Wembanyama. 

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