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Marcus Smart receives Defensive Player of the Year endorsement




Celtics

Gary Payton, who was the last guard to win the award in 1996, shared why Smart should be this year’s recipient.

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Marcus Smart could win Defensive Player of the Year this season. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Celtics guard Marcus Smart is one of the lead candidates to win Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021-22 NBA season.

As the Celtics, their fans, and several media members make their case for why Smart should win the award, he has one big question to hurdle: Should a guard actually win Defensive Player of the Year?

It’s been 26 years since a guard last won the award. Since then, the award has mostly gone to centers or power forwards (players from those positions have won it all but three times since 1996), as voters have shown they value rim protection more than perimeter play.

NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton, who was the last guard to win the honor of league’s best defender, believes the time has come for a guard to win the award again and thinks it should go to Smart.

“With Marcus Smart, he just does the same thing. He plays hard, he plays with a lot of dog in him. And I think he should win it. Why not?” Payton told SiriusXM NBA Radio’s Justin Termine and Eddie A Johnson. “He has changed a lot of things in a lot of the games.”

Payton explained what a guard needs to do in order to win Defensive Player of the Year and how Smart has met his criteria.

“Eddie would tell me, I was 94 feet (the length of the court), if I could turn a guard three or four times before he gets to half court and there’s only 10 seconds left on the shot clock, I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. They’re getting into their offense too late, and they’re going to rush,” Payton said. “Marcus Smart does the same thing. My son does the same thing. They do that.

“But then, when [the opposing team] is on their blackboard in the locker room, and say ‘Get the ball out of the way from Gary,’ make him go the other side and have the two guard bring it up – I’ve done what I’ve had to do. And I think that’s what he’s done, what Marcus Smart has done. He makes other people handle the basketball who aren’t supposed to handle the basketball and get into their offense. He’s done that. He’s done that all year. He has taken the point guard every time he plays whoever. He takes them out and makes someone else run the offense who is not supposed to.

“He deserves [Defensive Player of the Year]. If you change your offense because of one guy, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

While Payton didn’t make a statistical argument for Smart, there are some stats that back his case up to win the award. He’s the only player to have at least 200 deflections (204), 75 loose balls recovered (75), 15 chargers drawn (16), and 115 steals (118), showing how much of a constant pest he is.

Smart has also guarded opposing shooters well, too. Players have made just 43.3 percent of their shots when Smart guards them, which is the seventh-best in the league among players who’ve played at least 60 games this season. Smart’s pesky play and ability to get his opponent to miss shots is a big reason why the Celtics have the league’s best defense with a 106.2 defensive rating.





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