Celtics’ Smart named top NBA defensive player, ex-Spartan Jackson Jr. 5th

Associated Press

New York — Boston’s Marcus Smart is the first guard in over a quarter-century to win the NBA defensive player of the year award.

NBA officials announced the award on Monday. The last guard to win this honor was Seattle’s Gary Payton in 1995-96.

Detroit Pistons' Cade Cunningham (2) and Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart (36) vie for the ball during the first half.

Smart helped the Celtics lead the NBA in defensive rating and scoring defense (104.6) while holding opponents to a league-low field-goal percentage (.434) and 3-point percentage (.339). The 28-year-old ranked seventh in the NBA in steals per game (1.68) and tied for sixth in total steals (119).

Smart received 257 total points and earned 37 first-place votes from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges finished second with 202 points and 22 first-place votes.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who had won the award in 2018, 2019 and 2021, finished third with 136 points and 12 first-place votes.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) is fouled by Detroit Pistons guard Frank Jackson (5) in the second quarter.

Former Spartan Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies finished fifth overall with 99 points and 10 first-place votes.

Jackson Jr. averaged an NBA-best 2.3 blocks per game and totaled an NBA-best 177 blocks this season, setting a new franchise record in the process for most blocks in a single season.

In Game 1 of the playoffs against Minnesota, he recorded seven blocks in a loss against the Timberwolves.

Smart, who started each of the 71 regular-season games he played, tied for fourth in loose balls recovered (75) and tied for 10th in deflections (106) and charges drawn (16). He had a career-high 3.2 defensive rebounds per game.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo won defensive player of the year in 2020.

Players received five points for each first-place vote, three for each second-place vote and one for each third-place vote.