Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama Boldly Puts Rudy Gobert on Notice Over DPOY Reign

San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama teases Rudy Gobert over the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award amid a friendly rivalry among the league’s top defenders.

French centers Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs and Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves share more than their nationality and remarkable reach;

they are legitimate candidates to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

While a Spurs player hasn’t won Defensive Player of the Year since Kawhi Leonard in 2016, Wembanyama expressed his desire to claim the title.

Despite their camaraderie, Wembanyama recently shared a light-hearted jab at Gobert’s reign as a frequent recipient of the league’s highest defensive honor.

“I know that Rudy [Gobert] has a very good chance of winning it this year, and it would be deserved,”

Wembanyama said in a translated French answer. ”

Let him win it now because after that, it’s no longer his turn.”

Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs, Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Wembanyama’s comments subtly indicate his competitive spirit and friendly rivalry with Gobert, with whom he has a long-term relationship.

Back in November, Wembanyama described how special it is to face Gobert.

“I know every night there’s going to be one or two guys who are special to play against,” Wembanyama said.

“But even more, it’s someone that, over the years, has tried to take care of me and teach me some stuff. It was even more special and challenging.”

Gobert compared watching Wembanyama’s accomplishments to being “a proud dad,” while expressing how he’s “always there” for the Spurs star in case he needs advice.

“I’ve tried to be the best mentor I can be for him,” Gobert said. I’m really proud of him and the way he is dedicated, the way he works, and who he is as a person.

I am always there for him, whatever he needs. I always say that watching him succeed truly makes me happy.

I have a lot of love for him, and I make sure I do whatever I can to help him be the best he can be.

“He’s definitely part of the new generation, and I think he is going to create his own lane, be unique,” Gobert said. “I’m excited to watch him.”

Wembanyama and Gobert stand out for their defensive skills. They notably ranked first and sixth in the NBA for blocks per game, respectively.

The extent to which Wembanyama leads the league in blocks with 3.4 per game while also registering 1.3 steals places him in rare air.

Both surpass reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr., who averaged 3.0 blocks and 1.0 steals in 2022-23.

Wemby vs. Gobert: Who Wins DPOY?

Gobert’s contributions have been instrumental in propelling the Timberwolves to the top of the league’s defensive standings, highlighted by his leading defensive rating of 108.3. Minnesota’s success has placed Gobert as the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year at this point.

Conversely, Wembanyama faces challenges due to the Spurs’ overall performance. The team’s 14-54 record and 23rd-ranked defensive rating detract from his accomplishments and affect his case for the defensive award.

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