Block Party: Why Wembanyama's monster month may upend the Defensive Player of the Year race 

Victor Wembanyama
Victor Wembanyama / Cole Burston/GettyImages

When the San Antonio Spurs were in the middle of their 20-game losing streak in November of last year, they ranked just 28th in defensive rating, which was a major cause of their woes. However, since January 1st, they have had a seventh-ranked defense, largely thanks to Victor Wembanyama sliding up and playing center.

That isn't just a small sample size, either. Wembanyama has been starting at the center since December 7th, and San Antonio has had a top-15 defense during that time. One player essentially transforming an awful defense into an above-average one in a little less than three months is staggering and should put him near the top of the list of Defensive Player of the Year candidates.

Can Wembanyama actually win Defensive Player of the Year?

Wemby's top competitor is fellow Frenchman Rudy Gobert, who is anchoring the Minnesota Timberwolves' top-ranked defense. As a result, he should still be the favorite, especially with San Antonio ranking 24th on the season in defensive rating.

However, more jaw-dropping defensive performances from Wembanyama over the final six weeks of the season will continue to turn heads. That should lead to the Spurs moving closer and closer to the league average on that end of the floor. Still, they would realistically need to have a top-15 defense for him to have a strong chance of winning.

That is tough but not impossible, especially with Wembanyama now leading the NBA in blocks by a wide margin and having blocked a staggering 47 shots in just 12 games in February. Teams have been unwilling to challenge him at the rim and that isn't likely to change after he blocked 10 shots against Toronto recently.

His shutting down the paint for 28 minutes a night is definitely a recipe for success and even if he doesn't ultimately win the award this season, he may be a perennial contender for Defensive Player of the Year going forward.