The NBA’s second best team has its best defender. The San Antonio Spurs, who lost just one game at home all season, protect their court the way the silent and ferocious swingman Kawhi Leonard protects the basket. Leonard — along with new acquisition LaMarcus Aldridge — has been increasingly the focal point of the the Spurs offense this season. But his defense remains unequaled: Leonard earned the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive season.
The list of past winners of the award includes mostly centers, big men who dominated the paint and changed the game with shot-blocking and defensive rebounding. But Leonard’s consecutive crowns mark a larger shift away from the era of dominant big men to an NBA with a perimeter focus — a league that hasn’t had a center in the legitimate MVP conversation for the past decade. The last pure forward to win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Awards was Dennis Rodman in 1989-90 and 1990-91.