Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. has been named the 2022-23 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the second player to receive the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy while wearing a Grizzlies uniform. Jackson led the league with 3.0 blocks per game and finished with 56 first-place votes and 391 voting points, outscoring Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks, who came in second place with 31 first-place votes and 309 points. Cleveland’s Evan Mobley took third place with eight first-place votes and 101 points.
Team defence played a significant role in Jackson’s achievement, as he mentioned in his acceptance speech, “Team defence helps us. It goes a long way.” Jackson’s defensive prowess at the rim was exceptional, with an allowed shooting percentage of 46.9%, the best in the league among players with at least 300 shots defended at the rim. This stat was vital to Memphis’ No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Before the start of the season, Jackson was recovering from surgery on his right foot, and his absence affected Memphis’ defence. However, once he returned, the team’s defensive fortunes changed dramatically. Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins praised Jackson’s impact on the team, saying, “Hands down, no-brainer, JJ’s definitely the defensive player of the year.”
Lopez, who came in second place, had never been this close to winning a major individual award in his 15-year NBA career. Although he’s always been a shot-blocker, this was the first time Lopez was a serious contender for the DPOY award. He blocked a career-high and league-leading 193 shots this season, and contested 17.5 shots per game, more than anyone else in the league.
The award was the first major individual to be announced by the league this season, with three more to be revealed later in the week: Clutch Player on Tuesday, Coach of the Year on Wednesday, and Sixth Man of the Year on Thursday.
In conclusion, Jaren Jackson Jr. has earned his place among the NBA’s elite defenders by being named the 2022-23 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year. His exceptional blocking ability and defensive prowess at the rim have played a crucial role in Memphis’ success this season. He joins Marc Gasol as the second player to receive this honour while wearing a Grizzlies uniform, and his achievement is well-deserved.
THE HAKEEM OLAJUWON TROPHY
The prestigious Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year award is a testament to a player’s exceptional defensive skills, much like how Hakeem Olajuwon’s illustrious career was defined by his dominance on the defensive end of the court. As a two-time award recipient and a nine-time NBA All-Defensive Team member, Olajuwon holds the league record for most blocked shots and ranks ninth in steals. His outstanding career includes two NBA championships, 12 NBA All-Star selections, league MVP honours, two NBA Finals MVP awards, 12 All-NBA Teams selections, and a place in the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. The award trophy depicts a player in a classic defensive stance, with one hand raised and the other down, knees bent and poised for action.