Gobert is NBA's best defensive player for fourth time

Rudy Gobert claimed a slice of history. Victor Wembanyama nearly did.

Gobert, the Minnesota centre, was announced on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) as the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year for a record-tying fourth time, joining Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace.

It was the fifth time in the past 11 seasons that a French centre was named defensive player of the year - and it seems Wembanyama will add to that country's total before long. The San Antonio centre, announced on Monday as the league's Rookie of the Year, was second in the voting and fell one spot short of being the first player to win the defensive trophy in the first year of his NBA career.

Spurs centre Victor Wembanyama (left) and Denver's  Nikola Jokic.

Viva la France, indeed. Joakim Noah became the first Frenchman to win DPOY in 2014, and Gobert now has the trophies for 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2024.

"It's great teamwork," Gobert, the best defender on a Timberwolves team that had the best defence in the NBA this season, said on TNT.

"We love to get individual awards and all these things, and it's great, but you can't do it alone."

It is the ninth time in Gobert's 11 seasons that he has been seventh or better in the DPOY voting. He was second in 2017, third in 2020 and 2022, fifth in 2015 and seventh in 2016.

He picked up this trophy one day after missing a playoff game for the birth of his son, Romeo.

"A lot of blessings," Gobert said. "Just really grateful."

Miami centre Bam Adebayo was third in the voting.

Gobert was second in rebounds per game and sixth in blocked shots per game - a category where Wembanyama led the league.

The Timberwolves led the NBA this season in fewest points allowed per game. They also held opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage.

The winner of the NBA's top individual award will be announced on Wednesday.

Three international players - Denver's Nikola Jokic, Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dallas's Luka Doncic - are the finalists for MVP honours.

Jokic is seeking what would be his third MVP award in the past four seasons, while Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic are aiming to win the trophy for the first time.

Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, last season's MVP, was not eligible because of the league's new policy requiring players to appear in a certain number of games before being considered for most awards.