Kawhi Leonard didn’t need long to make an impression.
Leonard returned from an extended injury-caused absence in mid-January, and he terrorized opponents. For the last half of the season, Leonard looked like the NBA’s best defender – hounding top perimeter scorers, switching inside, playing passing lanes and getting key rebounds.
That swayed voters to give him Defensive Player of the Year over presumptive favorite Draymond Green, whose versatility helped the Warriors play the league’s best defense.
I would have rewarded Green’s overall impact – and voters game him more first-place votes than they did Leonard – over Leonard’s better defense in fewer minutes. But this is hardly a bad call. Leonard played awesome, and to enough voters, he played enough.
Doc Rivers’ lobbying paid off with DeAndre Jordan finishing a higher-than-he-deserves third.
Here’s the full voting with player, team (first-place votes, second-place votes, third-place votes, points):
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (37-41-25-333)
2. Draymond Green, Golden State (45-25-17-317)
3. DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers (32-25-26-261)
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans (11-15-7-107)
5. Rudy Gobert, Utah (2-4-11-33)
6. Andrew Bogut, Golden (0-6-13-31)
7. Tony Allen, Memphis (1-4-12-29)
8. Tim Duncan, San Antonio (1-1-4-12)
9. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte (0-2-3-9)
10. Jimmy Butler, Chicago (0-2-1-7)
10. Marc Gasol, Memphis (0-2-1-7)
12. Joakim Noah, Chicago (0-1-1-4)
13. LeBron James, Cleveland (0-0-3-3)
13. Trevor Ariza, Houston (0-1-0-3)
15. Patrick Beverley, Houston (0-0-1-1)
15. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta (0-0-1-1)
15. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia (0-0-1-1)
15. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers (0-0-1-1)
15. Hassan Whiteside, Miami (0-0-1-1)