Marcus Smart was named Defensive Player of the Year


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

Marcus Smart may win the Defensive Player of the Season award. Photo by Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

Celtics goalkeeper Marcus Smart is one of the leading candidates for the 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

As the Celtics, their fans, and many members of the media make their case for why Smart won the award, he has one big question to face: Should the goalkeeper actually win the Defensive Player of the Year award?

It’s been 26 years since a goalkeeper last won the award. Since then, the award has mostly gone to centers or strikers (players from those locations have won the award all but three times since 1996), with voters showing they value tire protection more than ambient play.

NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton, who was the last goalkeeper to win the honors as the best defender in the league, thinks it’s time for the goalkeeper to win the award again and thinks it should go to Smart.

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

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

“Eddie was telling me, I was 94ft (court length), if I could turn a keeper three or four times before he hits halfway with only 10 seconds left on the shot clock, I did what I was supposed to do,” Payton said. They enter into their attack too late, and they will speed up.” “Marcus Smart does the same. My son does the same they do it.

“But then, when [the opposing team] On the board in the locker room, and they say ‘Get the ball out of my neighbour’s way’, make him go to the other side and have the two goalkeepers put it up – I did what I had to do. And I think that’s what he did, what Marcus Smart did. It makes others tackle basketball who aren’t supposed to tackle basketball and go into their attack. I did it. He’s done that all year long. He took command of the base every time he played whatever. It takes them out and makes someone else criminalize the crime they’re not supposed to do.

“It’s worth [Defensive Player of the Year]. If you change your insult because of one man, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

While Payton has not made a statistical argument for Smart, there are some statistics that support his case for winning the prize. He is the only player to have at least 200 deflections (204), 75 loose balls recovered (75), 15 charges drawn (16), and 115 steals (118), which shows how much of a persistent blight he has.

Smart has also guarded opposing shooters quite well, too. Players only made 43.3 percent of their shots when their guards Smart, the league’s seventh-best player among players who have played at least 60 games this season. Smart’s annoying play and ability to make his opponent miss shots is the main reason why the Celtics have the best defense in the league with a defensive rate of 106.2.

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