OAKLAND, Calif. — The Bulls will be sending its lone representative in Sunday’s NBA awards ceremony, and it’s not a surprise:The Celtics and Rockets will send three representatives, after all.
Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was named Thursday as the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, winning a second consecutive season for the only such award in league history that went to a player who was not a unanimous first-team All-NBA selection.
Gobert, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, was ranked first on the NBA’s defensive player of the year ballot of 32 writers and broadcasters. The most common choice on the first-team vote was Oklahoma City’s Paul George, but George was not a first-team All-NBA selection, and the other finalists for the award – Atlanta’s Dwight Howard, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Denver’s Nikola Jokic – were not a unanimous first-team pick.
Howard received the most votes in two of three individual categories – frontcourt defender, and overall player efficiency rating. Embiid received the most votes in one category, statistical category, most blocks per game, and all the other players received at least one vote in a second category.
Gobert, 26, led the league with 16.5 rebounds and had 4.5 blocks per game for the Jazz, whose success under Quin Snyder was a big reason the team went from 26 wins the previous season to 48 wins this season. Gobert also led the league in blocks for a second straight season.
For a change, George was not the unanimous choice among the writers and broadcasters. He was voted the league’s most improved player, and he received 54.4 percent of the votes.
Chicago’s Jimmy Butler was named the league’s most improved player, with 38.4 percent of the vote.
In the first playoff awards announced on Wednesday, the Warriors’ Stephen Curry won the Most Valuable Player award, along with Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the first-team.
George took home the most first-team votes for the second straight season and the fourth time in the past five years. GSW got the most votes, 37, and Westbrook was voted the Most Improved Player.
The voting was done by an independent panel of NBA writers. Malone asked each writer, via Twitter, to explain their decision, with the approval of the coaches. There was one tie (Utah guard Donovan Mitchell and Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard) and the decision was ultimately made by the heads of the respective franchises.
George, 29, led the league in scoring at 29.8 points per game and was sixth in the league in field goal percentage at 51.6 percent. Westbrook led the league in defense at 20.1 points per game, and he was ranked second in the league in steals at 2.3 per game.