The media has voted, and Kawhi Leonard is the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year. Leonard led the league in steals -- and was the first wing to lead the league in defensive rating in 11 years -- despite missing 18 games due to a freak nerve injury in his hand.
We will have more coverage of this soon, but in the meanwhile here's the official press release in its entirety.
NEW YORK, April 23, 2015 - The San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard, who became only the sixth forward to lead the NBA in steals per game since the league started tracking the statistic 42 years ago, is the recipient of the 2014-15 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, the NBA announced today. He becomes the first Spurs player to win the award since David Robinson in 1991-92.
Leonard garnered 37 first-place votes and 333 total points from a panel of 129 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. He edged the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green, who tallied 45 first-place votes and 317 points. The Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan finished third with 261 points (32 first-place votes). Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote received.
The 6-7 Leonard averaged career highs of 2.31 steals and 5.9 defensive rebounds to help anchor a Spurs defense that held opponents under 100 points per game (97.0) for the 20th consecutive season. According to NBA.com/Stats, San Antonio ranked third in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 99.6 points per 100 possessions. The Spurs gave up only 97.1 points per 100 possessions when Leonard was on the court, a defensive rating that would have led the league over the entire season. When Leonard was off the court, though, San Antonio permitted 102.2 points per 100 possessions, a league-average defensive rating.
As part of its support of the Kia Defensive Player of the Year Award, Kia Motors America (KMA) will donate an all-new and more capable than ever 2016 Kia Sorento LX CUV to a charity of Leonard's choice on his behalf. Kia Motors will present a Sorento to the charity of choice of each of five 2014-15 year-end award winners as part of the Kia NBA Performance Awards. After this season, Kia Motors will have donated a total of 38 new vehicles to charitable organizations since its support of the NBA's prestigious honors began in 2008.
The 2014-15 Kia Defensive Player of the Year Award is part of the Kia NBA Performance Awards, a series of oncourt performance awards. The series, in its eighth season, is part of a multiyear marketing partnership between KMA and the NBA, and includes five of the league's most prestigious year-end honors: Kia Most Valuable Player, Kia Defensive Player of the Year, Kia Sixth Man Award, Kia Most Improved Player and Kia Rookie of the Year. The series also includes the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month and the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month during the regular season. Kia Motors is the Official Automotive Partner of the NBA, and the Kia Optima is the league's Official Vehicle. For more information, please visit www.kia.com/NBA.