Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. named Defensive Player of the Year
Jaren Jackson Jr., who turned the Grizzlies’ defensive season around when he came back from injury and started anchoring the paint, has been named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Jackson got 56 first-place votes of the 97 cast and finished with 391 total points, not dramatically far ahead of the Bucks’ Brook Lopez, who finished second and had 35 first-place votes and 309 total points. The Cavaliers Evan Mobley was third in the voting, followed by Draymond Green (Warriors) and Bam Adebayo (Heat).
Jackson found out who won like the rest of us — sitting on his couch watching Ernie Johnson on TNT. His mother, Teri Jackson, was hyped.
Jackson’s case was how much he improved the Grizzlies on his arrival — he missed the first month of the season following foot surgery, and when he walked in the door Memphis had the 17th-ranked defense in the NBA. Jackson started blocking every shot he saw — three per game, and 9.6% of all two-point shot attempts when he was on the court — lifting the Grizzlies to the best defense in the NBA the rest of the way (due to that rough first month the Grizzlies finished third overall for the season).
The case against Jackson — and by extension, the case for Lopez, Mobley and Adebayo — was that they didn’t miss a month of the season and played dramatically more minutes, helping their teams more by their presence (the Cavaliers finished with the best defense in the NBA this season, the Bucks were fourth). Everyone on the list certainly impacted their teams, but voters saw how much Jackson lifted up his team — Memphis’ defense was 4.9 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court — and decided the 63 games he played was enough to give him the award.
Here are the vote totals (from a panel of 97 media members selected to vote on the awards):
Jackson will be recognized by the Grizzlies before Game 2 against the Lakers on Wednesday.