Marcus Smart named finalist for Defensive Player of the Year


Loftier goals remain, but Boston Celtics point guard Marcus Smart took the first key step towards individual recognition on Sunday.

Smart was one of three players named as finalists for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, along with Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges.

Gobert has won the honor in three of the last four seasons, joining Dikembe Mutombo, Ben Wallace and Dwight Howard as the only players to win the award at least three times.

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But Smart is shooting for some history in his own right in being named the NBA's top defensive player. Not since Seattle SuperSonics legend Gary Payton in 1995-96 has a point guard been named Defensive Player of the Year. As it is, only seven perimeter players have ever won the award since it was first given in 1983.

Smart, 28, was a member of the NBA All-Defensive Team in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. He averaged 1.7 steals per game for the Celtics this season, along with a 107.1 defensive rating.

The winner of the award, along with all other NBA honors, will be announced at a later date. All voting for the awards was concluded before the beginning of the NBA postseason.

Smart was the only Boston figure to be named as a finalist for any of the major NBA awards, as Jayson Tatum and Ime Udoka weren't among the top three in MVP and Coach of the Year, respectively. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic were named finalists for MVP while Taylor Jenkins, Erik Spoelstra and Monty Williams were named finalists for Coach of the Year.

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