Kawhi Leonard named 2015-16 Defensive Player of the Year

The NBA has announced that San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has been named the 2015-16 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.  He received the most first place votes, 88, and 547 total points to make him the repeat winner, edging out the likes of Golden State’s Draymond Green and Miami’s Hassan Whiteside.

Leonard is the first back-to-back winner since Dwight Howard in 2009-10, and the first non-center to repeat since Dennis Rodman won the award for the second consecutive year in 1990-91 as a member of the Detroit Pistons.

Furthermore, Hakeem Olajuwon is the only other player to win Defensive Player of the Year back-to-back and win a Finals MVP award.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spoke on Leonard’s defensive prowess after last night’s Game 1 win over Memphis.

“Kawhi’s a very good defender, and he takes great pride in it, and he did what he usually does for us. It’s important. He sets the tone for us defensively, and tonight was a good example of that,” Popovich said.

Grizzlies guard Vince Carter, who had Leonard defend him on a few possessions talked about the first-time all-star’s instincts on defense.

“He’s aggressive, he is in passing lanes, he has great on ball instincts, great hands, and blocks shots very well for his position,” Carter said. “Even if he gets beat, he can recover. He has very long arms. He is relentless and really gets their defense started.”

Along with his 20 points last night, Leonard impacted the game defensively with four steals and three blocked shots. For the season, Leonard averaged 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and one block per game to go with his 21.2 points.

He contributed heavily to the Spurs’ league leading defensive efforts this season.

Leonard contributed to a San Antonio defense that led the NBA in points allowed (92.9 ppg) and defensive rating (96.6 points per 100 possessions).  The Spurs, a franchise-record 67-15 this season, were even stingier on defense with Leonard in the game: According to NBA.com/Stats, they had a defensive rating of 94.9 when the five-year veteran was on the court and 99.2 when he wasn’t – a difference of 4.3 points per 100 possessions.

Leonard will be presented with the award this morning at the Spurs practice facility.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.