Gasol's stingy defense earns award

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Gasol earned his first Defensive Player of the Year award by anchoring the NBA’s stingiest defense.

Since the 1982-83 season, when the first Defensive Player of the Year award was given, a power forward or a center has won it 22 of the 30 times.

Marc Gasol will be the 23rd this season as he accepts the award for the first time in his career, becoming the second first-time winner in as many years. Last season New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler was the recipient of the award for the first time.

Since 1996-97, Gasol is tied for the fourth-highest defensive efficiency among Defensive Player of the Year award winners.

Defensive efficiency
By Defensive Player of the Year winners

Gasol averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals for Memphis, which allowed 97.4 points per 100 possessions this season, second only to the Indiana Pacers (96.6 points per 100 possessions).

The Grizzlies’ defensive efficiency was 95.4 with Gasol on the court. However, with him on the bench, that number jumped to 102.2.

The anchor

With Gasol on the court, teams turned the ball over against the Grizzlies 17.3 percent of the time, a rate that would have led the NBA (the Clippers' 17.2 percent led the league this season). However, with him off the court, that percentage dropped to 15.8 percent, which would've ranked 12th.

His impact on the defensive end extends to turning turnovers into points, as well. With Gasol on the court, Memphis averaged 18 points per game off turnovers, which would've ranked fourth in the NBA. But with him off the court, the team averaged 15.5 points, which would've rank 20th.

Defense wins games

According to basketball-reference.com, Gasol had 5.4 defensive win shares this season, which was second in the NBA behind Paul George. Defensive win shares are an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense.

Gasol’s defensive efficiency of 95.4 points per 100 possessions allowed was third in the NBA (minimum 2,000 minutes, 126 players). Teammates Tony Allen (94.3) and Mike Conley (95.1) were first and second, respectively.

The second half of the season was when Gasol really earned the honor. Gasol’s defensive efficiency after the All-Star break was 92.1, which was best in the NBA.

On the ball

As an on-ball defender, Gasol led the NBA with his 0.76 points per play allowed per game (minimum 800 plays, 55 players). Players turned the ball over an average of 14.5 times per game when covered by Gasol, sixth best in the league.