Golden State Warriors big man Draymond Green has been named the 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year, as revealed at the first-ever NBA Awards show on Monday. Green had finished second in voting to San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard after each of the previous two seasons before claiming his first DPOY. Both players were named to the All-Defensive First Team earlier in the day, as well.
Green won this award in large part due to his peerless versatility at the defensive end. He is the key to the Warriors’ vaunted switching defense — he excels no matter if he’s on point guards, wings, or big men and often takes on all of them in the same possession. He’s also an excellent communicator and can regularly be heard call out assignments over the crowd and sneaker squeaks on any NBA broadcast.
Both Leonard and fellow finalist Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz would have been worthy winners, too. Leonard is the best on-ball defender in the sport and arguably only lost out on his third-straight trophy due to voter fatigue. His Spurs narrowly beat out the Warriors for the best defensive efficiency mark in the league over the regular season, and he’s often so good defensively that opposing teams simply plan away from for whichever guy he’s guarding.
Gobert seemed like the likely third-place choice, but he actually finished ahead of Leonard with 16 first-place votes to the Spurs star’s 11. Green was an overwhelming choice — he earned 73 first-place votes and added 22 second-place votes. Only two voters left Green off their ballot entirely, compared to just one for Gobert and eight for Leonard. Yet this trio dominated the voting — only Robert Covington and LeBron James managed to join them with second-place votes (one apiece).
Known for calling out opponents and entire cities, Draymond kept his acceptance speech fairly tame on Monday. Perhaps the Warriors’ recent championship (and the knowledge that he could get played off) caused him to avoid controversy.
Defensive Player of the Year was voted on by a panel of 100 independent media members. The post-draft, TNT-televised NBA Awards replaced the league’s previous team-organized press conferences for major awards, which typically took place during the first few rounds of the postseason.
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