Gary Payton Made The Case For Why Marcus Smart Is His Defensive Player Of The Year

As the 2021-22 NBA regular season winds to a close, award races and discussions are in full swing. Among the most hotly contested races is Defensive Player of the Year, where it feels like close to 10 players could have a credible case to take home the honor.

Recently, Gary Payton provided his reasoning as to why he deems Marcus Smart the best Defensive Player of the Year choice this season. Payton is the last guard to win the award, which he took home at the end of the 1995-96 season. He said Smart does similar things defensively to him, which includes pressuring a ball-handler full-court, slowing the collective offensive process, and eventually forcing the ball out of the top offensive player’s hands.

“He makes other people handle the basketball, who ain’t supposed to handle the basketball and get into their offense,” Payton said. “He’s done that all year. He has taken the point guard every time he plays ever. … If you change your offense because of one guy, that’s what your supposed to do (as a defender).”

Payton also praised Smart for playing hard and said “he plays with a lot of dog in him.”

“He has changed a lot of things in a lot of the games.”

Smart is the leading defender on the league’s top defense. His ability to excel with an array of responsibilities certainly makes him a legitimate candidate for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year.