Draymond Green leads Marc Stein's ballot for Defensive Player of the Year

Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports

‎No one in the NBA openly yearns after the league's Defensive Player of the Year trophy more than Draymond Green.

You can safely consider the loquacious Golden State forward one-third of the way there.

Big men Marc Gasol and Rudy Gobert are currently submitting peak work as the respective anchors of the team defensive schemes in Memphis and Utah, who happened to rank as two of the league's top three teams in terms of defensive efficiency entering play Friday.

Two-time reigning DPOY Kawhi Leonard, meanwhile, continues to be as feared an individual defender as you'll find in the NBA universe ... despite some eyebrow-raising recent chatter about overall slippage on D in Spursdom.

You'll also note in our Most Improved Player dispatch that we've got Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo on our DPOY radar.

But let's face it, folks: This is Green's trophy to lose heading into the season's middle third.

For all the well-chronicled concern about how much the Warriors had to sacrifice depthwise, on D and on the boards to make room for the offseason arrival of Kevin Durant, Green is taking turns guarding four of the five (and maybe even all five) positions, as usual, and had hauled Golden State to No. 7 in defensive efficiency entering the weekend after a slow start.

When we last connected on the matter with ESPN research ace Micah Adams on Wednesday morning, Green was tops in the league at 4.6 deflections per game and No. 3 in the NBA in contested field goal attempts per game. He’s likewise upped his steals per game from 1.5 last season to 2.2 this season.

And his late-game stops in one-on-one duels with elite scorers, of course, have become a SportsCenter fixture.

After two successive DPOY runner-up finishes, Golden State's most polarizing player will proceed into the new year with a lead ‎on Leonard and the rest of the field this time.