The NBA announced Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart as the 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year. While the timing is odd given the league released its finalists for each award Sunday, Smart becomes the first guard to win since Gary Payton took the honor in 1996. The last three guards to win the award are Michael Jordan, Payton and Smart.
Smart didn’t have the traditional rebounding and defensive stats of previous winners, but he did manage to hold a 105.2 defensive rating among players who averaged at least 30 minutes per game. According to nba.com/stats, that ranked seventh in the league for the filtered category.
Smart was +7000 to win the honor in the preseason per DraftKings Sportsbook. After years of seeing big men win this award behind gaudy rebounding numbers and strong play at the rim, it’s a nice change to see voters recognize perimeter defense in a league increasingly reliant on the three-point shot.