Kawhi Leonard has been named 2014/15 Defensive Player of the Year, the NBA announced. Leonard was considered one of the favorites for the award but faced serious competition from Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan, among others. The former Finals MVP has been the backbone of San Antonio's top five defense and has emerged as the league's best perimeter defender as well as a great rebounder for his position.
Here's the full voting:
Draymond Green got eight more first place votes but Leonard appeared on 103 ballots while Green was only on 87. The race was close but ultimately Leonard won by 16 points. Defensive Player of the Year has traditionally been an award dominated by big men. Leonard is the first wing to win it since Ron Artest did in 2004. He joins Dwight Howard and Alvin Robertson as the youngest recipients of the award at 23 years of age.
Green was viewed as the front runner for most of the year and certainly has a case considering the huge role he played in turning the Warriors into the best defensive team in the league. Doc Rivers said earlier in the season that DeAndre Jordan was "clearly" the defensive player of the year, citing his rebounding and shot blocking numbers. Leonard missed 18 games with various ailments, which was supposed to hurt his case. It looks like the dominance he showed as a defender when he was on the court was enough to sway voters.
The Spurs allowed over five fewer points per 100 possessions with Leonard on the court this season and Defensive Real Plus Minus ranks him as the player who makes the second biggest impact in the league on that end. Leonard has been drawing the toughest perimeter assignment every night for San Antonio and has managed to hold his man to below average shooting percentages, according to NBA.com's player tracking stats. He also led the league in steals this season with 2.3 per game.
Leonard is one of the most accomplished young players in the league. He has a championship ring, a Finals MVP award and now a Defensive Player of the Year award. The Spurs are currently battling the Clippers in the first round of the Western conference playoffs. Leonard is averaging over 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals per game in the series.
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