Indiana coach Frank Vogel made a credible plea for center Roy Hibbert as NBA defensive player of the year before the Pacers lost to the Bulls on Monday.
Don't think it's going to work though. Hibbert's early-season momentum has melted away and his zero-rebound game at Memphis on Saturday might have been the final trickle.
I'd say Joakim Noah has this award locked up. Late-season foot problems aren't going to spoil it for him this year.
Having been a voter for these awards, some insight is available here. Media members don't have a clear idea which player is truly the best defender. They need a hook.
Noah's got that with his nonstop intensity and ability to keep pushing the Bulls into the playoffs without Derrick Rose or Luol Deng. Reporters figure he's due for an award and this one is it.
Noah is not always a great low-post defender and he's not among the league leaders in blocked shots. But he's a valid choice for defensive player of the year. I've said before, he might have the best lateral quickness of any 7-footer ever. Bulls fans have caught on, which is why they go crazy when Noah gets matched one-on-one against LeBron James -- because they know he can keep up.
Some have called Noah the best big man in the game right now. I'll back off on that one, but think there's a good chance he'll make all-NBA first-team this year.
If he's not there already, Anthony Davis will be the NBA's best big man and best defender real soon. The late-blooming Chicago native is averaging 27.5 point and 11.8 rebounds this month, while leading the league in blocked shots all season.
New Orleans isn't going to make the playoffs, so expect Noah to get the all-NBA nod. Houston's Dwight Howard is a candidate, but he'll need more time to reverse the general disappointment people have in his career path.
The Bulls have another top contender for a major award -- Taj Gibson for sixth man. Starting with Ben Gordon in 2005, guards have won this award eight of the last nine years, so Gibson would be a change of pace.
As usual, playing on a bad team disqualifies people for any award besides rookie of the year. So forget about Nick Young, Dion Waiters or Rodney Stuckey.
The best contenders for sixth man are Gibson (12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks as a sub) and former Bulls guard Jamal Crawford, who is averaging 17.2 points off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Crawford is a worthy contender. He's the third-leading scorer on a team that's currently 50-21, although he did start 23 games this season. Gibson started just eight times.
Crawford won this award four years ago when he played for Atlanta, so maybe voters will be in the mood to mix it up. An argument could be made that Gibson does more for the Bulls, when rebounds and defense are taken into account. Crawford essentially provides instant offense and he's pretty good at it.
Phoenix is pumping second-year forward Markieff Morris for sixth man. His numbers (13.8 points, 5.9 rebounds) stack up reasonably well against Gibson, but he's not as well known around the league. Manu Ginobili (12.5 points) could also get some support, since the Spurs have had a great regular season.
Another category to watch is all-defensive team, which is voted on by the coaches. Noah made first-team last year and Jimmy Butler should have a good chance for at least the second team.
The coaches and media don't always agree on the best defenders. Last year, Memphis' Marc Gasol won defensive player of the year, but was relegated to second-team all-defense behind Noah.