Marcus Smart first guard since Gary Payton to win Defensive Player of the Year

Marcus Smart wins Defensive Player of the Year Gary Payton

Celtics’ Marcus Smart is officially the first guard since Gary Payton to win Defensive Player of the Year. Of course, Payton won the award with the Seattle SuperSonics back in 1996. Payton averaged 19.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.9 steals per game in the 1995-96 regular season.

Anyway, Smart beat out Suns’ forward Mikal Bridges and Jazz’s center Rudy Gobert to win the award. The final vote count showed the top defensive player with 37 first-place votes, 18 second-place votes and 18 third-place votes.

In second place, Bridges finished with 22 first-place votes, 25 second-place votes and 17 third-place votes. Next, Gobert received 12 first-place votes, 18 second-place votes and 22 third-place votes.

According to the results, Smart received only 37% of first-place votes. That’s the lowest share of first-place votes by a major NBA award winner since 2015. During the 2014-15 season, Kawhi Leonard won Defensive Player of the Year with 29% of first-place votes.

Moreover, in a total of 71 regular season games played, Smart averaged 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. His steal percentage is 2.6, which ranks eighth overall in the league. The eighth-year player closed out his regular season with a defensive rating of 107.1. This was the 18th-best rating in the NBA this season.

Did Marcus Smart deserve to win Defensive Player of the Year?

Additionally, Smart was also selected NBA All-Defensive First Team for the third time of his career (2019, 2020 and 2022). While the player has had his fair share of trouble on the court, his style of play suits the team. Plus, he’s a decent wingman for Jayson Tatum.

However, the question on everyone’s mind right now is, who should have won the award? It’s complicated. This is all a matter of opinion. Mikal Bridges closed out his regular season averaging 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Even if fans believe Bridges, Gobert or Bam Adebayo had the better season, hopefully everyone can admit that Smart deserved to win. The Celtics finished their regular season with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. This was mainly because of their defensive performances.

Furthermore, Smart was selected sixth overall by the Celtics in the 2014 NBA Draft. On Aug. 16, 2021, the Celtics re-signed the guard to a four-year, $77 million contract extension. He is set to earn $16,607142 in the 2022-23 season.