San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award.
Leonard is taking home the trophy for the second straight year, eking out Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green by 126 points. Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside finished third, and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan finished in fourth.
Kawhi Leonard has been a defensive stalwart throughout his career in Texas, and over his five years he's become an utterly dominant force on the defensive side of the ball. Nicknamed "The Claw," Leonard averaged 1.8 steals per game this season, as well as 6.8 rebounds and 0.98 blocks. Kawhi also ranked second in Defensive Win Shares behind Paul Millsap, and third in Defensive Rating behind Whiteside and teammate Tim Duncan.
It isn't just stats that back The Claw, however. To truly understand the defensive genius of this year's DPOY winner, you need to actually watch the Spurs' defensive machine go to work.
San Antonio allowed the lowest points per game in the league this season, and Kawhi Leonard is the biggest part of it. For the past few years, Leonard has been charged with guarding the best opposing player on the floor, and he does so brilliantly.
Balanced, swift, light on his feet yet strong with his incredible hands, Leonard is the NBA's greatest shutdown defender. It isn't close either. Kawhi defends the perimeter with otherworldly poise and calm, and it allows the Spurs' defensive rotations to be the best in the NBA.
Two in a row
Kawhi is the 8th player to win the award in two straight seasons, and is now half-way to tying Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo for the record of four DPOY wins. The award was first given out for the 1982-83 season, and with last year's win, Leonard became the first non-center/power forward to win it since Gary Payton did in 1995-96.
Leonard's award season may not be over yet. Even though Stephen Curry is going to run away with the MVP, Leonard should receive some second and third place votes because of his incredible improvements on the offensive side of the ball. Leonard has the complete package now, and the rise in his points per game, field goal percentage, and offensive rating could absolutely put him in line for the Most Improved Player award.
Even so, Kawhi Leonard is clearly a top defender in the NBA. While cases could be made for Green, Whiteside, and others, Leonard's second straight victory comes as no surprise. He's a monster, and one of the NBA's best.