The Memphis big man Jaren Jackson Jr. beat out Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez and Cleveland’s Evan Mobley to win the award. He averaged 3.0 blocks per game, which was the most in the league.
Jaren Jackson Jr. of Memphis blocked more shots per game and played better defense at the rim than anyone else this season.
Voters took note.
The Memphis big man will get the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy as the 2022–23 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, it was announced Monday night. He will be the second player to win this award while playing for the Grizzlies. He joins Marc Gasol, who did it a decade ago, in that club.
This season, Jaren Jackson led the league with 3.0 blocks per game. Last season, he came in fifth place for defensive player of the year. He got 56 first-place votes and 391 points, which put him ahead of Milwaukee Bucks’ Brook Lopez, who got 31 first-place votes and 309 points to finish second. Evan Mobley of Cleveland, who is only in his second NBA season, was third with 101 points and eight first-place votes.
“Team defense helps us a lot. It really helps,” Jackson said on the TNT show where the award was announced.
Jackson let opponents shoot 46.9% of the time at the basket, which was the best in the league among players who had stopped at least 300 shots there. This helped Memphis get the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said about this month, “Hands down, no question, JJ is the defensive player of the year.”
Jenkins could talk about analytics all he wants, but a simple look is also enough to tell the story. Jackson Jr. wasn’t ready for the season to start because his right foot, which had surgery, needed more time to heal.
While Memphis was waiting for Jackson Jr. to be ready, they weren’t great on defense.
“He didn’t play in the first fifteen games of the season. “On defense, we were terrible,” Jenkins said. “When he gets back into the lineup, things change in a big way.”
Jackson gave a lot of credit to Jenkins and the Grizzlies’ staff for helping him win the award
Jackson said, “They’ve given me the confidence to be aggressive on offense and really given me free reign on defense to go out there and do whatever.”
Lopez, who came in second, had been in the NBA for 15 years and had never been this close to winning a major individual award.
Lopez was a serious chosen for the DPOY award for the first time this year, even though he’s always been a shot blocker. In his career, he’s blocked 1.8 shots per game. In 2020, when he was 10th in the voting, his Milwaukee teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won both the award and the MVP.
Lopez blocked 193 shots this season, which was a career high and a league high. He also blocked 17.5 shots per game, which was by far the most of anyone in the league.
Draymond Green of Golden State was fourth, Bam Adebayo of Miami was fifth, Giannis Antetokounmpo was sixth, Toronto’s O.G. Anunoby and Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday tied for seventh, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Brooklyn’s Nic Claxton tied for ninth, Chicago’s Alex Caruso was 11th, and Miami’s Jimmy Butler was 12th.
The league was the first to give out a major individual award this season
Clutch Player (Butler, Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan, or Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox), Coach of the Year (Sacramento’s Mike Brown, Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault, or Boston’s Joe Mazzulla), and Sixth Man of the Year (Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee’s Bobby Portis Jr., or New York’s Immanuel Quickley) will be announced later this week.
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