The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins published an anonymous poll asking 16 coaches about the NBA’s best defenders. Marcus Smart was the star of the article.
In this poll, The coaches voted on the 2021-2022 all-defensive teams and defensive player of the year. Smart was the only unanimous selection for first-team all defense, and he earned 9 out of 16 first-place votes for defensive player of the year. The poll was conducted “throughout the spring, summer and fall.”
An Eastern Conference Assistant Coach commented on the impact of his winning plays, saying “I feel like it’s been an infectious thing that’s grown throughout the team in a good way. He’s built the culture there in a lot of ways and gotten the more talented players to follow him.”
After Smart became the first guard in almost 25 years to win DPOY, several media members questioned the decision, claiming that guards don’t have nearly the defensive impact as bigs and wings. The Smart-supporters believed that in today’s switching-centric defensive schemes, guards are more important than ever, especially those that can capably defend larger players.
Another Eastern Conference Assistant Coach said “he makes everybody else be better defenders around him with just the power of his leadership and his energy and his constant, crazy diving on the floor.” The coach goes on, saying “We’d have instances when we’d play him (when) he’d hear the call and as we’re coming down into the halfcourt, he’d run and switch with somebody at the elbow so he could guard the guy that was in the action.”
Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Draymond Green joined Smart on the anonymous coach first team all-defense. Interestingly enough, Mikal Bridges only made the second team, and he came in second place for the actual DPOY voting.
John Hollinger, one of basketball’s analytics pioneers, was on the latest Lowe Post podcast, and said Marcus didn’t deserve last year’s DPOY. I don’t remember the last time this award winner has been so maligned, and it was refreshing reading this story. Coaches who game plan for the Celtics respect Smart’s value and don’t adhere to the outdated idea that guards aren’t impactful defensive players.