Jaren Jackson Jr. was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year on Monday.
The Memphis Grizzlies center beat out fellow finalists Brook Lopez of Milwaukee and Evan Mobley of Cleveland for the honor, his first. Jackson received 56 of 100 first-place votes. Lopez received 31.
Jackson, 23, adds the award to a breakout campaign that also saw him earn his first All-Star bid. In 63 games, Jackson averaged 18.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1 steal and an NBA-best 3 blocks per game. His 2.3 blocks per game last season also led the league.
A 6-foot-11 center with shooting range (35.2% career 3-point shooter), Jackson has elevated the concept of a 3-and-D specialist since he joined the Grizzlies as the No. 4 pick out of Michigan State in the 2018 NBA Draft. Injuries limited him early in his career, including a 2020-21 campaign that saw him play just 11 games. But when healthy, he’s been one of the NBA’s most versatile big men and has evolved into an elite defender the last two seasons.
Alongside fellow All-Star Ja Morant, Jackson helped the Grizzlies rise to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a 51-31 record. Memphis lost Game 1 of the first round to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Jackson led the Memphis effort with 31 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal.
Jackson’s 63 regular-season games this season wouldn’t have made him eligible for the award had the newly agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement been in effect. Per the new CBA, players must play a minimum of 65 regular season games to be eligible for end-of-year awards. But the CBA doesn’t take effect until next season, meaning that Jackson takes home the hardware.
Lopez, 34, finished second in voting. He averaged 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 0.5 steals per game, his most productive season with the Milwaukee Bucks since joining the team in 2018. His block total of 193 in 78 games led the league. The Bucks posted the NBA’s best record in the regular season.
Mobley, a second-year forward for the Cavaliers, finished third. He averaged 16.2 points, 9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 0.8 steals. He pairs with center Jarrett Allen in one of basketball’s best young frontcourts and helped lead Cleveland to the No. 4 seed in the East.