KEY POINTS

  • Dikembe Mutombo is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • Mutombo reveals who stands out defensively among today's active players
  • Two DPOY winners are not mentioned on his list that includes Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert

Dikembe Mutombo entered the NBA knowing he had the potential to be one of the game's greatest defenders.

He left the league becoming the league's only four-time Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) winner to date, and the second all-time shot-blocks leader behind Hakeem Olajuwon.

Besides that legacy, the Georgetown product was also known for his trademark finger-wag gesture every time he would swat an attempt.

His work ethic has inspired the next generation of defenders, so much so that even fellow Congolese Bismack Biyombo has mimicked the post-shot block action.

In a recent one-on-one with long-time NBA columnist Steve Aschburner, Mutombo revealed his choices for this generation's best defenders.

"[Joel] Embiid. [Rudy] Gobert. [Clint] Capela. [Ben] Simmons," Mutombo answered when asked about who stands out nowadays as defensive anchors.

Having the Utah Jazz center on the list is a no-brainer as Gobert is already a two-time winner (2018, 2019) and has helped lead the Jazz to the top of the Western Conference.

The next three picks, in contrast, are quite intriguing. But to their credit, the Philadelphia 76ers All-Stars have both made strong cases themselves to win the DPOY trophy.

"I was supposed to guard [Kevin Durant]. We match up well size-wise. KD’s out. The next person I’m guarding is Kyrie [Irving]. Like, who’s doing that? It’s not many players who are doing that," Simmons said about his versatility in a GQ interview last month.

"And to be doing it at a high level like that? I don’t think there’s anybody else really doing that. I mean, Kawhi [Leonard] when he was really playing defense like that, of course. But, it’s not too many guys."

Embiid, meanwhile, also argued for his case in a recent appearance on "The Lowe Post" podcast

“I want to be Defensive Player of the Year. I should be Defensive Player of the Year,” Embiid stated.

Like Gobert's massive impact with the Jazz, Embiid and Simmons have taken the Sixers to another level, becoming the best team in the Eastern Conference at 43-21.

Even Atlanta's starting center Capela has a shot as he has been a meaningful defensive contributor for the fifth-seeded Hawks with career-high averages of 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.

Interestingly missing from Mutombo's list: are 2017 winner Draymond Green and the current awardee Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Milwaukee Bucks have remained a solid title contender as long as the two-time MVP is healthy.

Antetokounmpo's return on Sunday proved that the Bucks are still one of the heavy hitters this season as he dropped 49 points in a 117-114 statement win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The Golden State Warriors' poor record might be affecting Green's side. His numbers have also declined this season.

In 2017, Green won the top defensive honors when he, along with Durant, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry won, the championship.

Mutombo's picks only show that as much as the battle for this season's championship is wide-open, the DPOY race is also one of the most interesting in recent years.

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks scores a basket against Andre Drummond #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks scores a basket against Andre Drummond #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers Photo: Getty Images | Kevork Djansezian