Giannis Antetokoumpo is named NBA defensive player of the year and wants to share the credit


    He became the first Bucks player to claim the award since Sidney Moncrief in 1983 and 1984. Antetokounmpo also has been MVP and most improved player.

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    Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reaches to block a shot by Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon. (Photo: Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports)

    Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo added to his trophy collection on Tuesday when he was recognized as the NBA’s defensive player of the year for 2019-20 based on games played through March 11.

    The announcement came live on TNT’s « Inside the NBA, » where host Ernie Johnson introduced Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who was given the opportunity to bestow the award on Antetokounmpo.

    “Congrats to Giannis on being named defensive player of the year, » Budenholzer said, sitting beside the Bucks star in a room filled with Milwaukee’s players and staff. « His commitment to defending, his commitment to winning is beyond incredible. He impacts the game with his blocked shots, his rebounding, his ability to guard all five positions, his chase-down blocks, his challenge to do everything defensively. His talent is beyond special and combined with his team’s it’s made for a very special moment and for us to recognize his as the defensive player of the year.”

    At that moment, Bucks center Brook Lopez, who was seated on the other side of Antetokounmpo, passed the trophy to Antetokounmpo, offering a few slaps on the back while the rest of the team applauded.

    Antetokounmpo proceeded to thank God, his family and Budenholzer before turning the attention to his teammates. As he did, he started to tear up, apologizing and drawing a laugh from them when telling them he had said he wasn’t going to cry.

    “Without my teammates this wouldn’t be possible, » Antetokounmpo said. « I know that my name is on this trophy, but it could be any of these guys’ names on this trophy. I believe that defense is building trust and effort. We trust one another, we care about one another, we believe in one another – that’s why we’re the best defensive team in the NBA and we’re gonna keep it that way.”

    “Brook, give him the award!”@Giannis_An34 of the @Bucks was presented the 2019-20 #KiaDPOY live on TNT tonight!

    Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player to claim the award since Sidney Moncrief in 1983 and 1984. He also became just the fifth NBA player to be named both most valuable player and defensive player of the year in his career, joining Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Kevin Garnett. Antetokounmpo is the first player to win those two awards as well as most improved player, an honor he earned in 2017.

    The voting itself wasn’t all that close. The best defender on the league’s best defensive team, Antetokounmpo earned 75 out of 100 first-place votes from the media panel that decides NBA awards. Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis finished second, edging out last year’s winner, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Lopez, who served as Milwaukee’s anchor at the center of the Bucks defense, earned four third-place votes.

    When Antetokounmpo was on the court this season, opposing teams scored just 96.5 points per 100 possessions, the lowest defensive rating among the more than 300 players who averaged at least 15 minutes per game. He held opponents to 36.5% shooting when they were matched up against him, again the lowest mark in the league.

    If you keep looking at advanced defensive metrics, you’d consistently find Antetokounmpo’s name at the top. He led the league in defensive rating – Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo were behind him – defensive win shares and defensive box plus-minus.

    Whether he was providing help from the weak side, defending along the perimeter, patrolling the paint, chasing opponents down in transition or defending opponents in isolation, Antetokounmpo proved to be a menace no matter who he was against. With his 6-foot-11 frame, quick feet, athleticism and long arms, Antetokounmpo posed problems to guards, forwards and centers alike.

    And when opponents missed shots, Antetokounmpo was always likely to gobble up the rebound. His 11.5 defensive rebounds per game were the most in the league, something that made him effect not just on defense, but often also allowed him to push out on the break where he was nearly unstoppable as a scorer and playmaker.

    Later in the playoffs at a date to be determined, Antetokounmpo can add another trophy to his stash when the league announces this season’s MVP. Should he win that as well, he’ll be the first repeat winner since Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016. Earning MVP this season would also make him just the third player to take home MVP and defensive player of the year in the same season, joining Jordan (1988) and Olajuwon (1994).

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