Despite missing 16 games during the regular season, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard took him NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year honors on Thursday.
Leonard, 23, led the Association with 2.3 steals per game during a regular season that saw him rank third in the NBA with a 99.6 defensive rating.
Known for his superior athleticism, the former first-round pick has turned his game around over the past couple years, and is now seen as one of the better all-around players on the hardwood.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green received more first-place votes (45) than Leonard (37), but lost on the overall vote count, 333-317.
Leonard’s win comes as a bit of a surprise, considering Green’s excellent defensive splits and the fact that he suited up for 79 games. Green averaged 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game during the regular year. He also finished second in defensive win shares and fourth in overall defensive rating.
Photo: USA Today Sports