Five Contenders For Defensive Player Of The Year

VTB-League.com is previewing the top contenders for each of the league's individual honors (see Young Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year). Today we look in on the race for the Defensive Player of the Year.

Aggressive, disciplined defense is the foundation for success in basketball. Good defense leads to fast-break opportunities and easy transition points. Not surprisingly, elite defenders are extremely valuable to any team, especially if they can handle several positions.

VTB-League.com singles out the top five contenders for this season's Defensive Player of the Year award, listed alphabetically.

Semyon Antonov, Nizhny Novgorod forward

Nizhny Novgorod has been on a rollercoaster ride all season, struggling at times on defense (8th in the league with 84.1 points allowed per game). It might be even worse, if not for Semyon Antonov's tenacity. The Russian big man is a rock on defense, ranking in the league's top-10 in blocks and can stop almost any opponent 1-on-1. He's also been asked to play the center and small forward position at times, where he's proven he can be effective.

Dontaye Draper, Lokomotiv-Kuban guard

Lokomotiv boasts an elite defense. Thanks to constant switching and perimeter pressure, Georgios Bartzokas's system has been outstanding. Interestingly enough, the team's best defensive player, according to many, is also the team's shortest. 179-cm Dontaye Draper has excellent court vision and timing and isn't afraid to get physical. Combined with his speed and quick hands, he's a nightmare for opposing players. The American guard averages 1.3 steals per game and often forces mistakes and rushed shots with his aggressive, in-your-face defense.

Konstantinos Kaimakoglou, UNICS forward

The bearded Greek is one of Kazan's key players on both sides of the court. While he's often overshadowed on offense by Keith Langford and Quino Colom, it's tough to exaggerate his value on defense to the team. UNICS's rugged, fearless forward isn't afraid of battling bigger opponents in the paint, does an excellent job on help defense, and is always ready to wipe out his teammates' mistakes.

Howard Sant-Roos, Nymburk forward

The lanky Cuban has been one of this season's revelations. Howard Sant-Roos is incredibly athletic and he takes full advantage, leading his team in rebounds and steals. In fact, he's tops in the league in steals per game (2.22 per game). Sant-Roos's sticky defense is an integral part of Nymburk's defensive approach, which emphasizes constant pressure and quick transition offense. The Czechs are 4th overall in points allowed per game, trailing only CSKA, Lokomotiv-Kuban and UNICS.

Kyle Hines, CSKA center

CSKA finished the regular season in 1st place, putting up big numbers on offense all year long. But the reigning champs' defense may have played an even bigger role in their success. The Army Men led the league in fewest points allowed per game for much of the season, though Loko recently inched ahead. CSKA's big men remain the linchpin on defense: Viktor Khryapa, Andrey Vorontsevich and Kyle Hines. If Vorontsevich stood out last season, Hines has been the leader during the 2015-16 campaign. The athletic American is always a tough 1-on-1 defender, doesn't shy away from contact and does an excellent job on the glass. And that's not even mentioning his incredible shot-blocking. One of the league's shortest big men, Hines uses his strength and athleticism to outwork his opponents, snapping up rebounds and powering through screens.