With the end of the regular season, the NBA has begun announcing the winners of the regular season awards. Most recently, the NBA announced that Boston Celtics' guard Marcus Smart had won the Defensive Player Of The Year award. Smart, who has been considered one of the best defenders in the league for quite a few years now, has gotten the ultimate vindication of his ability. But Smart's win made some history.
Marcus Smart winning the Defensive Player Of The Year award made history in the NBA. As pointed out by Reddit user u/lukelear, Smart is the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton won it in 1996. That season, Payton was one of the best players in the league and helped lead his Seattle Supersonics team to the NBA Finals, where they were ultimately defeated by Michael Jordan and the 72-10 Chicago Bulls.
Smart had a great regular season. The Celtics initially got off to a tricky start this season and were one of the worst teams in the league at one point. Since the turn of the year, the Celtics have been incredible, offensively, and also defensively. Led by Marcus Smart, the Celtics established themselves as one of the best teams in the league and moved up the Eastern Conference standings to secure the second seed.
Smart will be hoping to have a similar trajectory to Payton and the Supersonics, as he and the Celtics are expected to make a deep run in the NBA playoffs. Currently, the Celtics have a 1-0 lead against the Brooklyn Nets. But given the wealth of talent that the Nets have on their roster, Smart will have to play some of the best defense of his career in order to give the Celtics the best chance to get past Brooklyn.