Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been named the 2021-22 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the NBA announced today.
This marks the first NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for Smart, who becomes the first guard to earn the honor since Gary Payton in the 1995-96 season. Smart is also the second player to win the award with the Celtics, joining Kevin Garnett (2007-08).
“To be able to be named the Defensive Player of the Year and be the first guard since Gary Payton in 1996 to win this, it just shows not only me and everybody else that it can be done,” Smart said after winning the honors.
“The way the game is changing, the guards are being more recognized for their abilities to do certain things that we shouldn’t be able to do at our size. I think this award and me winning it shows that and the path for us guards now and in the future.”
Smart received 257 points (37 first-place votes) from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges finished in second place with 202 points (22 first-place votes). Utah Jazz center and three-time Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert finished in third place with 136 points (12 first-place votes). Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.
A starter in all 71 of his games played in the 2021-22 regular season, the 6-foot-4 Smart ranked seventh in the NBA in steals per game (1.68) and tied for sixth in total steals (119). He had 19 games with three or more steals, including two games with a season-high five steals.
Smart, 28, ranked among the league leaders in several “hustle” categories, finishing tied for fourth in the NBA in loose balls recovered (75) and tied for 10th in both deflections (206) and charges drawn (16). He also set a career high in defensive rebounds per game (3.2).
Behind Smart, the Celtics led the NBA in defensive rating (106.2) and points allowed per game (104.5) and held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage (43.4) and three-point field goal percentage (33.9). The strong defense helped propel the Celtics to a 51-31 record and the second seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2022 NBA Playoffs presented by Google Pixel.
An eight-year NBA veteran, Smart has been selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team twice (2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons). He also won the NBA Hustle Award for the 2018-19 season. This season, Smart averaged 12.1 points, a career-high 5.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game.
“I’m a defender, and that’s what I do,” Smart said. “I defend and try to come and be one of the best ones to do it. With this award, all that does is just continues to help me and show me that there’s still more to go and to continue the path that I’m on.”
The voting results for the 2021-22 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award are below. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. Complete ballots for each voter will be posted at PR.NBA.com after the announcement of all end-of-season awards.
A year-by-year list of the Kia Defensive Player of the Year Award winners:
2021-22 — Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics (Voting)
2020-21 — Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (Voting)
2019-20 — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Voting)
2018-19 — Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (Voting)
2017-18 — Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (Voting)
2016-17 — Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (Voting)
2015-16 — Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (Voting)
2014-15 — Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
2013-14 — Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
2012-13 — Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
2011-12 — Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
2010-11 — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2009-10 — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2008-09 — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2007-08 — Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
2006-07 — Marcus Camby, Denver Nuggets
2005-06 — Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
2004-05 — Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
2003-04 — Ron Artest, Indiana Pacers
2002-03 — Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
2001-02 — Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
2000-01 — Dikembe Mutombo, Philadelphia 76ers
1999-00 — Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat
1998-99 — Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat
1997-98 — Dikembe Mutombo, Atlanta Hawks
1996-97 — Dikembe Mutombo, Atlanta Hawks
1995-96 — Gary Payton, Seattle SuperSonics
1994-95 — Dikembe Mutombo, Denver Nuggets
1993-94 — Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
1992-93 — Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
1991-92 — David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs
1990-91 — Dennis Rodman, Detroit Pistons
1989-90 — Dennis Rodman, Detroit Pistons
1988-89 — Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz
1987-88 — Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
1986-87 — Michael Cooper, Los Angeles Lakers
1985-86 — Alvin Robertson, San Antonio Spurs
1984-85 — Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz
1983-84 — Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee Bucks
1982-83 — Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee Bucks