It’s a development that’s been building for months, but is now official. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Marcus Smart has been named NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021-2022 season.
In total, Smart received 37 of the 100 first place votes, 15 more than the next-closest player (Mikal Bridges of the Suns). He also received 18 second place and 18 third place votes, which added up to 257 points. Bridges finished with 202.
Although it’s his first time winning the award, this isn’t Smart’s first league recognition for his defensive abilities. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2019 and 2020.
Smart is the first guard to win the award in almost 30 years. Gary Payton was the last backcourt player to do so, in the 1995-1996 season. Only four other guards have won the award since the NBA began handing it out in 1983 – Michael Jordan, Michael Cooper, Alvin Robinson, and Sidney Moncrief.
Payton was actually on-hand at Celtics practice on Monday and presented Smart with the award. The team captured the moment on video.
This is just the second time a Celtics player has won Defensive Player of the Year. Kevin Garnett earned the honor for the 2007-2008 season, which was capped by the Celtics winning the NBA Finals.
Two other Celtics joined Smart in receiving votes. Center Robert Williams took home one first place and one second place vote, finishing seventh in the voting. Forward Al Horford finished ninth with one second place vote.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Celtics so well represented on the ballot. The C’s held opponents to just 104.5 points per game this season, which led the NBA.