Antetokounmpo looked around, wondering if a teammate was about to be scolded. “Usually when coach wants to talk to us after a game, somebody messed up,” Antetokounmpo said. This time, it was because the Greek Freak did really well.
Antetokounmpo was voted NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday, becoming the fifth player to win that award and MVP in a career. The All-Star, who was MVP last year and is the favorite to repeat this season, ended the two-year reign of Utah center Rudy Gobert as Defensive Player of the Year.
He got the news with the rest of his teammates on the league's best defensive team a day earlier. “Coach was so excited, he was so happy,” Antetokounmpo said. “He told me I won Defensive Player of the Year. He jumped on the table.”
Antetokounmpo received 75 first-place votes from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters, finishing with 432 points. Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis was second (200 points; 14 first-place votes) and Gobert (187 points; six first-place votes) third.
Antetokounmpo joined Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Kevin Garnett as players to do the MVP-Defensive Player of the Year double. He was runner-up for the defensive award last year.
He led the Bucks to the NBA's best record and helped them limit opponents to 101.6 points per 100 possessions, the league's top defensive rating, as of March 11. Voting was conducted on games through then, before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“His commitment to defense, his commitment to winning, his commitment to doing everything is beyond incredible," Budenholzer said. "His impact on the game with blocked shots and rebounds, guarding all five positions, chasing down blocks, close-outs, communicating. He does everything defensively — literally everything. This award is representative of that.”
At 6-foot-11, Antetokounmpo is able to handle a matchup with any frontcourt player, especially because the Bucks also have 7-footer Brook Lopez behind him at center. Milwaukee allowed only 96.5 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo on the court, giving him the lowest defensive rating among the more than 300 players who averaged at least 15 minutes per game.
The Bucks were holding opponents to an NBA-low 41.3% shooting from the field when the season was suspended and Antetokounmpo often ended up with the shots that were missed. He was leading the league with 11.5 defensive rebounds per game, while also averaging a little more than a steal and block.
“If you win and you take care of business, awards can come. We’ve had the best defensive team in the league. We have the best defense in the league,” Antetokounmpo said. "At the end of the day, I guess what it means is you have to win, you have to do whatever it takes every day to go out there, put yourself in position, put your team in position to win and good things are going to happen and everything is going to take care of itself.”
He became the first Bucks player to win Defensive Player of the Year since Sidney Moncrief, who earned the first two that were awarded in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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