He becomes the first non-big man to repeat as winner since Dennis Rodman in 1990 and 1991. When defenses are designed for bigs to have greater impact, Leonard stands out as a terror on the perimeter. He locks down his man, hawks passing lanes and helps on the glass.
Here’s the full voting with player, team (first-place votes, second-place votes, third-place votes, points):
- Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (84-41-4-547)
- Draymond Green, Golden State (44-62-15-421)
- Hassan Whiteside, Miami (2-12-37-83)
- DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (0-7-29-50)
- Paul Millsap, Atlanta (0-3-12-21)
- Avery Bradley, Boston (0-1-11-14)
- Rudy Gobert, Utah (0-1-10-13)
- Tony Allen, Memphis (0-1-2-5)
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans (0-1-1-4)
- Andre Drummond, Detroit (0-1-0-3)
- Jimmy Butler, Chicago (0-0-2-2)
- LeBron James, Cleveland (0-0-2-2)
- Al Horford, Atlanta (0-0-1-1)
- Jae Crowder, Boston (0-0-1-1)
- Trevor Ariza, Houston (0-0-1-1)
- Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (0-0-1-1)
- Kyle Lowry, Toronto (0-0-1-1)
- All three of us chose Leonard as our Defensive Player of the Year. This was both expected and earned. Leonard was the NBA’s best defensive player when on the court last season. This season, he stayed healthy, making him the clear choice.
- Green was just as much a lock to finish second. His versatility for the Warriors is incredible.
- Whiteside finished a surprise third. His 3.7 blocks per game not only led the NBA, they were the most by a player in 15 years. In a less-informed era, that might have won him this award. But the fact that Heat allowed fewer points per possession with him off the floor – an overused but still relevant stat – is indicative of reality: Whiteside too often makes poor decisions, chases blocks and gets out of position. He’s a good defender – a very good one. His elite strengths outweigh his weaknesses. But when it comes to being considered one of the very best in the NBA, his flaws matter more.
- Surprising Tim Duncan and Andrew Bogut both received no votes. I rate them as the best defenders when on the court behind only Leonard and Green. But neither Duncan nor Bogut played enough for any voter.
- The Pacers, third in points allowed per possession, were the only top-eight defense without a vote-getter. That’s another surprise given Paul George‘s name recognition.