Smart and Bledsoe have long been among the NBA’s best ballhawks, but neither had appeared on either All-Defensive team prior to this season. Smart received 63 First Team votes and appeared on 82 of 100 ballots from a group of sportswriters and broadcasters selected by the league office. Bledsoe got 36 First Team votes.
Joining them on the First Team were Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, all of whom received more than 90 First Team votes. Gobert, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is making his second straight appearance on the First Team. Antetokounmpo is making his First Team debut after appearing on the Second Team in 2016-17. George made the First Team for the first time since 2013-14.
Anchored by Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo, the Bucks owned the league’s best defense this season. This marks the fourth time in five years that two players on the same roster made First Team All-Defense. New Orleans Pelicans teammates Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday filled two of the spots last year, while Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan each made it in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Holiday made this year’s Second Team, joined by Golden State Warriors teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. Like Smart and Bledsoe, Thompson — an elite defender for some time — is making his first All-Defensive appearance.
Raptors guard Danny Green was the highest vote-getter not to make either roster, receiving 19 First Team votes and appearing on 28 Second Team ballots. Patrick Beverley, Derrick White, Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, James Harden, Malcolm Brogdon and Stephen Curry all logged First Team votes in the backcourt but fell well short of the requisite number of votes to make either team.
While four deserving guards filled the All-Defensive guard slots, there were some head-scratching votes in the backcourt, including the First Team nods for Harden and Curry and a Second Team bid for Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.
Voting in the frontcourt was far more consistent from the 100-person panel. Houston’s P.J. Tucker and Minnesota’s Robert Covington were the only other forwards to receive First Team votes. Indiana’s Myles Turner received the only other First Team vote that did not go to either Gobert or Embiid at the center position.
Here are the final All-Defensive rosters for the 2018-19 season:
C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
F: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
G: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
G: Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks
C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
F: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
G: Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
G: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
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