Fresh off a 15-point Game 4 playoff victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer couldn’t contain his excitement.
As he delivered some breaking news to reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo while surrounded by players and coaches in the locker room, he jumped on a table after sharing the details.
One day later, the NBA officially announced that Antetokounmpo was named the 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
“Usually when Coach wants to talk to us after a game, somebody messed up or somebody did something,” Antetokounmpo said Tuesday. “So in my head, I’m like, ‘OK.’ I’m looking around like, ‘Who did something?’ Because I know I didn’t do nothing.”
Antetokounmpo won the award in a landslide, receiving 75 first-place votes from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters and earning 432 points total.
The 2018-19 NBA MVP, Antetokounmpo becomes the fifth player to win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in his career, joining Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and David Robinson.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis came in second with 14 first-place votes (200 points), and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who won the award each of the past two seasons, finished third with six first-place votes (187 points).
Antetokounmpo, 25, anchored the best defensive team in the league in the Bucks, averaging 13.6 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal in 30.4 minutes per game. Milwaukee allowed only 96.5 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo on the court, giving him the lowest defensive rating among the more than 300 players who averaged at least 15 minutes per game.
“At the end of the day, when you go out there and compete and when you have guys behind you and next to you that compete as hard, awards like this can come,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the day, what I get from this is that you have to win. You have to do whatever it takes every day to go out there and put yourself in a position, put your team in a position to win, and good things are going to happen, and everything is gonna take care of itself.”
According to Second Spectrum data, the Bucks superstar held opponents to 36.3% shooting when he was the closest defender during the regular season. That is the lowest field goal percentage allowed by any player in a season since Second Spectrum started tracking the stat in 2013-14 (minimum 525 field goal attempts).
Antetokounmpo sees this year as his best defensive effort yet.
“Obviously, I think I can get way better. I can be more active. I can block more shots. I can be in the passing lanes more,” he said. “But going back again, having the best defensive team in the NBA, making your team being the best defensive year, I think it’s been my best year, but you can always get better. You can always improve.”
Antetokounmpo is the presumptive favorite to win MVP again this season. Only Olajuwon (1993-94) and Jordan (1987-88) won both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.
Defensive Player of the Year has been awarded since the 1982-83 season. Antetokounmpo is the first Bucks player to win the award since Sidney Moncrief won in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons.
“It’s certainly meaningful. I think trying to create an identity and trying to instill in a team and an organization this is what we want to be about,” said Budenholzer, whose Bucks took a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Magic in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. “To have your best player in Giannis lead the way and be honored and become the Defensive Player of the Year, it’s really who we want to be and what we want to be about.”