- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
Sunday's showdown between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat will be billed as a battle of title contenders, young coaches, Big 2s, Big 3s and MVP candidates. But there's another mini-competition to throw into the mix.
With Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic no longer a defensive juggernaut, the door is open for the Defensive Player of the Year award. And on Sunday, we'll witness two of the top candidates, LeBron James and Serge Ibaka, jostle for position atop the top defender award ranks.
In one corner, we have Ibaka, the NBA's top shot-blocker, and in the other, we have James, arguably the NBA's most versatile defender. But who's the better candidate to steal Howard's crown?
Before we dive in head-first, let's not limit this discussion to steals and blocks. We're hopefully beyond that now. Judging individual defense forces the voting media to use their sharpest basketball senses -- and it's a difficult judgment to make because these are two very different defenders and the box score doesn't really shed much light on the issue. Sure, LeBron averages the fourth most steals and Ibaka blocks more shots than anybody, but let's venture past those two marks in the box score.
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann