NBA Playoffs: Marcus Smart is a DPOY Worthy

Marcus Smart is the first point guard to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in years. There are good reasons why this usually doesn’t happen, but the 28-year-old is still a special case. And what’s even more important for the Boston Celtics is that now he’s also found his offensive role.

Marcus Smart himself didn’t really believe it would work for him with the Defensive Player of the Year award. Or was it just his way of lobbying? If yes, it would have worked anyway what he wrote on twitter on March 9:

“Somewhere in the fine print of this award, Rule 47.1A reads: ‘No NBA guard without the initials GP may win the DPOY.’ That’s exactly what happened – Smart is the first point guard since 1996 to be named the league’s best defensive player. Conveniently, the last winner, “GP” Gary Payton he cited, gave him the award for it.

Smart’s gain has been evident in recent days, after all, many of the journalists with voting rights announce their choices in advance, and it’s still a surprise. As a result, many are already against it, from fourth-placed Bam Adebayo to pundits like Nate Duncan, who described the whole thing as a “PR award”.

Perhaps the Celtics’ rather noisy campaign over the past few weeks really played a role. In a way, however, the choice just reflects how complicated it is to understand the issue of defense, especially when it comes to individual players.

Marcus Smart: Only one person never defends

Defense is not done in a vacuum, even if one on one is important. Big players are usually more important to the team’s defense, or their defensive impact is easier to prove. Players like Rudy Gobert, for example, are “challenged” much more often and it can be argued, for example, that players around them end up much worse than when a big normal is around (or that the jazz defense not absolutely competitive when Gobert doesn’t play along).

These metrics aren’t perfect, but with players on the edge it’s even more complicated because a lot of what they do doesn’t even show up on the scoreboard. To put in the words of Daniel Theis: “[Smart] won’t have 15 rebounds and 6 blocks like Rudy Gobert, but that doesn’t make him a worse defender.”

Smart was DPOY essentially because he’s the best defender in the league’s best defense, but even here it’s debatable whether Robert Williams, Jayson Tatum or Al Horford don’t have a similar impact. As I said, team defense; a good defensive team never depends only on a good quarterback (someone would have to tell the Jazz that…).

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