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Kawhi Leonard Wins 2014-15 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2015

USA Today

Following a regular season that saw him emerge as the San Antonio Spurs' go-to option offensively, forward Kawhi Leonard was honored Thursday with the 2014-15 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The NBA's Twitter account made the official announcement:

NBA @NBA

Kawhi Leonard of the @Spurs named 2014-15 @Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year! #KiaDPOY http://t.co/YZCF8wkyTo

The 23-year-old San Diego State product had no shortage of competition for the accolade, beating out Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green and several other top candidates. Sports Illustrated provided the full voting breakdown:

The Crossover @TheCrossover

Complete voting for NBA Defensive Player of the Year. http://t.co/4Ddc9dRsr3

Leonard bucked a long-running trend of interior defenders taking home the award, as The Washington Post's Michael Lee noted:

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

Kawhi Leonard is first perimeter defender since Ron Artest in 2004 to win Defensive Player of the Year.

After winning the NBA Finals MVP last postseason, Leonard carried that momentum into the 2014-15 campaign. In addition to making strides as an offensive player, his incredible defensive acumen improved as well.

He was often tasked with covering the opposition's best offensive player, and he came out on the winning end of those battles more often than not. The 6'7" wingman averaged 7.2 rebounds and an NBA-best 2.3 steals per contest.

Although the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are still integral to San Antonio's immediate success, Leonard has taken the lead due largely to his defensive capabilities. With the Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers tied at one game apiece in the first round of the playoffs, Leonard has upped his level of play with averages of 20.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals.

While the Defensive Player of the Year Award represents the pinnacle of defensive play in the NBA, Leonard is still a young player who will almost certainly continue to get better and add even more hardware to his trophy case moving forward.

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