Marcus Smart gives nod to Bam Adebayo in Defensive Player of the Year race after last season’s swipe

Marcus Smart was the vocal and defensive catalyst for the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals last year, which wouldn’t be all that surprising if it happened again this June.

He was the first defensive player to win Defensive Player of the Year since Gary Payton accomplished the feat in 1996, the same year that Payton took Seattle to the Finals.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Smart picked the top five defensemen in the NBA this season, and he couldn’t.

“I may be biased, but Robert Williams,” Smart told Sportzshala Sports, referring to his teammate. Smart joined Sportzshala Sports for Tres Generaciones Tequila’s “Get up Tres” campaign, where he talks about his NBA journey in a group of Instagram videos.

“Bam Adebayo…”

Smart paused, recalling that last season, when it came to the league’s top defensemen, Miami’s all-around big man “wasn’t in his class.”

“He was not in my class at the time. He was gone last year,” Smart said. “Mikal Bridges [Brooklyn]. Jrue Holiday [Milwaukee] Surprised he didn’t win Defensive Player of the Year. Probably my fifth: Jaren Jackson Jr. [Memphis] what it does leading in blocks. Big anchor for this team. A lot of the guys that could have been on this list could have been Defensive Player of the Year. I’m just happy to be where I am.”

Jackson Jr. leads the league in blocks for the second consecutive season, but has upped one full block per game over last year. Bridges came second in the voting to Smart last season with the Phoenix Suns before being sent to Brooklyn on a Kevin Durant trade right on deadline.

And Holiday is probably the most feared quarterback in the league since Smart, so Smart was surprised Holiday hadn’t won the award yet. As Smart mentioned, there were a few players he didn’t mention who were quite titled over the years: Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It just goes to show how difficult it is to play defensively compared to when he first got into the league. In Smart’s rookie year, 2014-15, teams averaged exactly 100 points per game. Now it’s closer to 115 points per game.

“What a lot of people don’t understand, you’re already on [a] it’s not profitable to step on the floor,” Smart said. “The contact used against you is all that the shooter is protecting. Every [is] tired of low-scoring games. Wanna see dunks, 3s [high-scoring] points. You have to find a way to influence that end – it’s hard.”


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