NBA legend makes compelling case for Marcus Smart as DPOY winner

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The race for NBA MVP is coming right down to the wire with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid both making strong cases for the award.

But it's not the only awards race with plenty of intrigue.

The competition for Defensive Player of the Year is fierce as well, and the top candidate -- at least according to the betting odds -- is Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart.

Smart is fully deserving of winning this award. Whether you use the eye test or the stats (including the advanced metrics), Smart has the best case to win the award and become the first Celtics player since Kevin Garnett in 2007-08 to earn the honor.

But Smart is battling recent history, too. 

This award has mostly been dominated by centers over the last two decades. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has won Defensive Player of the Year in three of the last four seasons, including last year. The most recent guard to win the award was Seattle SuperSonics point guard and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton in 1995-96.

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Payton recently talked with SiriusXM NBA Radio and explained why Smart should win DPoY. Check out his reasoning in the video below:

Payton makes some good points, and there's no question Smart changes how teams run their offense. He's not only an excellent one-on-one defender, he's also a disruptor on that end of the court. The Celtics own the league's No. 1 defensive rating, and Smart is the main reason why. He guards the opponents' best perimeter scorer so Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown don't have to.

Even some of Smart's rivals think he's the top candidate:

Smart has been an elite defender for years. He's also been selected to the All-Defensive first team twice (2018-19 and 2019-20). He's taken his defense to an even higher level this season and deserves the Defensive Player of the Year award.

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