Milwaukee asks Giannis Antetokounmpo to do everything on the defensive end, from matching up on quick point guards at the arc to physical play inside to protect the rim. Bucks’ coach Mike Budenholzer asks because Antetokounmpo is up to the task — Milwaukee had the best defense in the league this season. By far.
Plus Antetokounmpo locks guys down with his length and quickness — the player Antetokounmpo was defending this season shot 36.5% from the field, the lowest percentage among the more than 250 players who faced at least 300 shots.
All of that won Antetokounmpo the Defensive Player of the Year Award, the league announced Tuesday.
“Congrats to Giannis on being named Defensive Player of the Year,” Budenholzer said in announcing the award on TNT. “His commitment to defending, his commitment to winning is beyond incredible. He impacts the game with his blocked shots, his rebounding, his ability to guard all five positions, his chase-down blocks, his challenge to do everything on defense.”
This was the expected outcome. Antetokounmpo received 75 of the 100 first-place votes from selected media members. The Lakers Anthony Davis (14 first-place votes) finished second, and the two-time reigning DPOY, Rudy Gobert of Utah, finished third (six first-place votes). Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons finished fourth in the voting, Miami’s Bam Adebayo was fifth.
Antetokounmpo is likely to complete the double of winning Defensive Player of the Year and MVP — only Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon have done.
Antetokounmpo worked well in tandem with Brook Lopez in a Milwaukee defensive scheme that protected the paint first, last, and always this season (surrendering more above-the-break threes and living with that). Antetokounmpo credited his teammates for the award when he spoke, the Bucks players have been on a string defensively all season long.
But it only works because Antetokounmpo is so good.