In a category typically ruled by bigs, Marcus Smart is changing the norm.
After helping lead the Celtics to a 2nd place finish in the East, with the best defense in the league, Marc Smart has officially been recognized as the NBA's best defensive player.
The Athletic's Shams Charania made the announcement on Twitter:
For over two decades, the DPOY has been awarded mostly to bigs, usually because the difference they make on that end is often more profound.
Smart is the first guard to take it home since Gary Payton in 1996.
Smart, 28, didn't get off to the best start this season. The Cs were wildly inconsistent out of the gate, and Smart stirred up controversy when he called out his own teammates in front of the media.
But through his play, and the hard work he showed every night on the court, he became a crucial part of the team's turnaround, and it did not go unnoticed.
"I went with Marcus Smart,” said Dorris Burke on voting for Smart. “So my candidates, there were many. … I think a couple things, I think the metrics for defense are hard. It is a perimeter-based game. And for far too long we have not given those grinders, the Mikal Bridges and Marcus Smarts the due. The amount of space you have to cover, the number of screens you’ve got to run through. It takes a physical and emotional stability, and endurance. And I just thought it was time.”
“Boston from a certain period forward has been the most dominant defensive team,” Burke added. “And I said I’m going to give the best defensive player on the best defensive team my vote this year.”
Smart has long been considered one of the league's top defenders, so it makes sense that he was finally given his due.
The more important matter for Boston, though is getting past the Nets. With KD and Kyrie healthy, and Ben Simmons working his way back, they have will have to play almost perfectly to get past this team.
They won Game 1 on Sunday, but it remains to be seen if they can close the deal and win the series. With Marcus Smart and his lock-down defense on their side, they certainly have a solid chance.