Gary Payton knows a thing or two (or three) about defense and from where he’s at, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green merits the Defensive Player of the Year Award even over two-time DPOY awardee Kawhi Leonard.
“I would rather both of them win. But I think Draymond has done a great job of helping Golden State endure the changes that they’ve had,” said Payton, who does not have an official vote. “He’s been stepping up and making a lot of big plays. Not that Kawhi hasn’t been doing that, but I think Draymond really deserves to win defensive player of the year.”
The winner will not be announced until the NBA’s first awards show after the Finals. But Green, Leonard and Utah’s Rudy Gobert are the three main candidates. Green and Leonard will both be in action during the playoffs on Saturday, with the Warriors trying to take a 3-0 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers and Leonard’s Spurs hoping to bounce back from a Game 3 loss in Memphis on Thursday night.
Payton grew up in Oakland, the city that Green calls home with the Warriors. The outspoken stars also host an internet trash talking show, but Payton said he would never play favorites when making his decision.
He lauded Leonard, the two-time defending winner.
“He guards all the best players,” Payton said. “He can hawk the ball. He’s so long, that he can steal the ball from you one-on-one up top and makes the player he’s defending get rid of the ball.”
But he said Green gets the slight edge because his performance has also helped Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson become better defenders.
“He changed the Golden State tone this year,” Payton said. “He’s a bigger presence on his team and he deserves it.”