Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been named the 2021-22 KIA NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the league has announced.
The 28-year-old has become only the second guard to receive the award since Seattle SuperSonics legend — and former Los Angeles Laker — Gary Payton claimed it in 1996.
Smart earned the honor with 257 points in the voting, garnering 37 first-place votes. The Phoenix Suns’ Mikal Bridges finished second with 202 points (22 first-place votes). Utah Jazz center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Rudy Gobert came in third with 136 points (12 first-place votes).
Smart made a case for himself by leading the Celtics’ defense to the top of the NBA rankings, particularly in the second half of the season. Following the turn of the year, Boston went 34-12 to secure the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and finish with a league-leading defensive rating of 106.2
The guard racked up the sixth-most steals in 2021-22 (119, tied with Charlotte Hornets star LaMelo Ball) and registered the 18th-best individual net rating — the Celtics outscored opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possession with Smart on the floor.
Five 2021-22 NBA awards are yet to be decided
The Defensive Player of the Year voting results are the first to be revealed among the 2021-22 NBA awards. The Rookie of the Year honor will go to either Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors), Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons), or Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers).
Tyler Herro (Miami Heat), Cam Johnson (Suns), and Kevin Love (Cavaliers) are this year’s finalists for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Darius Garland (Cavaliers), Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies), and Dejounte Murray (San Antonio Spurs) are in the running for the Most Improved Player title.
Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Monty Williams (Suns) are the final-3 for the Coach of the Year honor.
The MVP award will be decided between big men Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), and Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets).
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