In what was a wide-open Defensive Player of the Year race — seven players received a first-place vote — the selection of Boston’s Marcus Smart as this year’s winner led to extensive questioning on NBA Twitter about whether he was deserving. (Although to be fair, puppy dogs and rainbows could lead to arguments on Twitter.)
What was unquestionable was the incredible way the Celtics let Smart know — they flew out Gary Payton, the last guard to win the award back in 1996, and let the Hall of Famer break the news.
A special moment today celebrating the heart and soul of our team, @smart_MS3 ☘️ pic.twitter.com/OPcgYbMmxt
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 18, 2022
Well done, Celtics. Well done.
Don’t be surprised to see more guards (Mikal Bridges?) and wings (Kawhi Leonard and then Ron Artest both won the award as wings since Payton’s win) take home the DPOY trophy in the coming years. While there is evidence big men tend to make more significant defensive impacts, the value of switchability and versatility as a defender has not been lost on media voters. NBA defenses are far more complex now than many fans realize — it is one part of a pick-up game that does not translate to the NBA, it’s not as simple as “you are responsible for your man” — and the value Smart brought as the signal-caller/quarterback of the league’s best defense, and his lock-down play on the perimeter, made him a deserving winner.
"I'm able to see things that most people aren't able to see on that end… for me to be able to communicate to guys, it makes their job a lot easier."
Marcus Smart explains how his leadership on defense has made a difference for the Celtics this season 🍀 pic.twitter.com/oOcUzR1a2N
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 19, 2022
He may not have been everyone’s first choice, but he is deserving.
And the way he found out was incredibly cool.