NEW YORK – San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard has been voted the NBA defensive player of the year, edging out the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green, the league announced Thursday.
The 23-year-old Leonard received 37 first-place votes and a total of 333 points from the 129 U.S. and Canadian sportswriters and broadcasters who participated in the balloting.
Leonard, who led the Spurs franchise to its fifth NBA title last season and was named NBA Finals MVP, played in just 64 games in 2014-2015 due to an eye infection and a hand injury. He averaged 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and also was the league leader with 2.3 steals per contest.
Green received the most first-place votes (45) and finished second in the overall balloting with 317 points after serving as the lynchpin of a stingy Warriors defense that led the NBA in defensive efficiency (with just 98.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) during the regular season.
But “the Spurs gave up only 97.1 points per 100 possessions when Leonard was on the court, a defensive rating that would have led the league over the entire season,” the NBA said in an official release.
The Spurs’ star garnered more points than Green because he received more second-place and third-place votes from the members of the media.
Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan finished third in the balloting with 261 points.
All three of those players are currently competing in the NBA playoffs.
The Warriors lead the New Orleans Pelicans 2-0 in their Western Conference best-of-seven first-round series, while the Spurs and Clippers are tied at a game apiece in their first-round West showdown.