Giannis Antetokounmpo has been named the 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year, but two Clippers also had good showings on the ballot, which bodes well for their candidacy for all-Defense teams.
The NBA had previously announced the finalists for each award, as the voting took place before the start of the seeding games, so it was known that no Clippers were in the top three, but the team did snag two top-10 finishes. There are two five-man all-Defense teams; thus, both players should be in line for that honor.
Patrick Beverley earned one first-place vote and two third-place votes to finish in a tie for sixth with Marcus Smart, a player who he incidentally does not enjoy being compared to, despite the obvious similarity in their tenacity on the court. Beverley led all point guards in ESPN’s Defensive RPM and was third at his position in FiveThirtyEight’s Defensive RAPTOR. He also had the lowest defensive rating of any rotation Clipper, and the team had the fifth-best defense in the NBA during the regular season.
Kawhi Leonard finished in a tie for eighth with Andre Drummond by receiving five third-place votes. The narrative of Leonard’s load management overshadowed the fact that he played more games than Beverley and significantly more minutes, but it is true that Leonard did not start taking the most difficult defensive assignments until the calendar turned to 2020. The defensive metrics support Leonard ending up lower on the ballot than Beverley. Among small forwards, the reigning Finals MVP ranked 10th in Defensive RPM and fourth in Defensive RAPTOR.
Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner in 2015 and 2016. He also finished in a tie for sixth in 2019 and third in 2017. This is Beverley’s third top-10 finish, as he tied for ninth in 2019 and tied for eight in 2017.
Neither player appears to have any bonuses tied to his contract for DPOY voting. Kudos to Pat and Kawhi for outstanding defensive seasons.