NBA Defensive Player Of The Year: Kawhi Leonard Of The San Antonio Spurs

For the second consecutive season, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year is the San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard. The last NBA player to be awarded the Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons was Dwight Howard, who received the award for three consecutive seasons from 2008-09 to 2010-11, according to the NBA website.

Kawhi Leonard received 547 points in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, as reported by Jeff Zillgitt on the USA Today Sports website. The next closest player in the voting was Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, who had 421 points in the voting process. Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat was third in voting for the Defensive Player of the Year with 83 points, and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers was fourth with 50 points.

In just five years of NBA experience, Kawhi Leonard has now earned his second NBA Defensive Player of the Year honor. Last season, the former 15th overall draft pick out of San Diego State University led the league in steals per game with a 2.3 mark. This season, that number dipped a bit to 1.8 steals per game, but it was still good enough to earn Leonard the Defensive Player of the Year.

When Kawhi Leonard won his first Defensive Player of the Year award, his defensive rating was a 96. (Defensive rating is described as an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions.) In winning his second Defensive Player of the Year award, Leonard matched last season's 96 with another defensive rating of 96 for this season.

The skill that earned Kawhi Leonard the Defensive Player of the Year award this season will be very valuable for the San Antonio Spurs as they look to advance through the NBA playoffs. With steals like the one you'll see in the video below, and offensive contributions as well, Leonard can help guide the San Antonio Spurs to their sixth NBA championship. In the Spurs' first playoff game of the season, this year's NBA Defensive Player of the Year contributed 20 points en route to a 106-74 drubbing of the Memphis Grizzlies.

In each of Kawhi Leonard's five seasons in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs. Leonard has continued to average more than a steal per game in each of those playoff campaigns as well. In the Spurs' Game 1 victory over the Grizzlies, Leonard picked up a hefty four steals. His playoff average now sits at 1.6 steals-per-game over a total of 66 games.

Earning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons now puts Kawhi Leonard in some esteemed company. In addition to Dwight Howard and Kawhi Leonard, the following NBA players have also won the Defensive Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons: Ben Wallace, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dennis Rodman, and Sidney Moncrief. As noted by Kerouac Smith on the Fox Sports website, Leonard is the first non-center since Dennis Rodman to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons.

Winning the Defensive Player of the Year award multiple times, without the advantage of superior height (relatively), becomes another feather in the cap for Kawhi Leonard. Although his shots blocked per game has increased steadily over his five seasons in the league, that skill is not the one for which Leonard is noted. His overall tenacity, ability to steal the ball, and his prowess in the defensive rating statistic, for which he was rated second in the league this season, all point to Leonard's worthiness in winning this second consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

[Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]