If the big brains in this game are still struggling to get advanced metrics for the defensive side of the ball on par with the advanced numbers on offense -- specifically to help us out of conundrums like these -- how is a humble mainstream thinker like moi supposed to figure it out?
The league office, though, insists that voters pick between them. Ties aren't allowed in NBA awards balloting. So you're forced, like it or not, to choose between the two guys who finished 1-2 last season, even if you're not really sure how.
Leonard is the reigning DPOY and bidding to become just the second perimeter player in NBA annals to win the award in consecutive seasons, something we haven't seen since Milwaukee's Sidney Moncrief went back-to-back in the first two seasons for this category in 1982-83 and 1983-84.
The Claw has a predictably strong case again, too, given Leonard's status as the anchor of the league's most highly rated defense, how he's the only wing player you'll find in the top of 30 of ESPN.com's Defensive Real Plus-Minus standings and his ability to guard four different positions on the court.
Green, though, can guard four positions in his own right and ranks right there with Leonard in Defensive Real Plus-Minus in the top five. He also anchors a defense that has maintained top-five status this season despite protracted absences for three of Draymond's key defensive sidekicks: Andre Iguodala (17 games), Andrew Bogut (12) and Harrison Barnes (16).
There's a decent chance Green and Leonard will be dueling for DPOY supremacy for years to come. Yet in this particular season, leaning on the concept we introduced here in late February during our second trimester awards, Draymond is going to squeeze past Kawhi this time to snag our first-place vote.
Tie goes to the Warrior.
Not the most scientific concept in the world, but that strikes us as the wisest course when Green's team awoke Sunday with a record of 71-9.
Honorable mention in the DPOY goes to big men Hassan Whiteside (centerpiece of Miami's No. 7-ranked D), Rudy Gobert (who hiked Utah back into the top 10 in defensive efficiency despite the Jazz slipping out of it thanks to the 20 games Gobert lost to injury) and DeAndre Jordan (who has quietly nudged the Clippers into the top six in defensive efficiency after all the rancor his free agency caused last summer).
Whiteside's status as the NBA's runaway leader in blocked shots (3.7 BPG) and his steady improvement as the season progressed earned him the third-place slot ahead of his 7-foot rivals. It frankly should have earned him much more Most Improved Player shine than we've given him this season.
Since Jan. 1, Miami's defense has allowed five fewer points per 100 possessions with Whiteside on the floor. According to ESPN Stats & Information ace Micah Adams, Whiteside's presence is essentially the difference between the Heat sporting the fourth-ranked and 19th-ranked team in terms of defensive efficiency since the calendar flipped to 2016.
Stein's ballot: 1. Green; 2. Leonard: 3. Whiteside.
October prediction: Rudy Gobert