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Thunder forward Paul George among NBA All-Defensive team honorees

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Oklahoma City's Paul George (13) defends Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell during a Thunder win March 13 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma City's Paul George (13) defends Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell during a Thunder win March 13 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

The Thunder was in Utah on the end of a four-game road trip. Paul George was in a shooting slump and the early stages of shoulder soreness which would plague him the final month of the season. But when George’s shot isn’t falling, he dives into his defense.

The Thunder beat the Jazz by nine, largely on the defensive brilliance of George. The 6-foot-9, 220-pounder slid seamlessly between snuffing out Joe Ingles one-on-one to outworking the bigger Derrick Favors in the post, to intercepting passes from Donovan Mitchell and Jae Crowder. Much like he was all season, George was everywhere.

It was just one of numerous standout defensive performances which led to George being announced as a near-unanimous selection to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team on Wednesday.

George received 96 first-team votes from participating media members, second-most behind Utah center Rudy Gobert’s 97. George was three votes from being a unanimous pick, a result which could reflect well on his chances of winning Defensive Player of the Year.

"Maybe you can make an argument somebody’s a little better offensively. I don’t know if you can make the argument anybody’s better defensively," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after George’s defensive masterpiece against the Jazz on Feb. 23. "Certainly, I think he’d be right there as the Defensive Player of the Year."

George will be, as he’s joined by Gobert and Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo as a finalist for the award. The winner will be announced June 24 at the NBA Awards in Los Angeles.

George, Gobert and Antetokounmpo were joined on the NBA All-Defensive First Team by Boston’s Marcus Smart and Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe. George was named an All-Defensive team honoree for the fourth time in his career, last being named to the First Team in 2013-14.

George was among the top perimeter defenders in the NBA this season, leading the league in steals per game (2.2) as well as total deflections (292) and loose balls recovered (160). George also contested the sixth-most 3-points shots in the NBA (323). He spearheaded a Thunder defense which finished fourth in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions (106.4).

George is the fourth player in Thunder history to receive All-Defensive team honors, joining Serge Ibaka (2011-14), Thabo Sefolosha (2009-10), and Andre Roberson (2016-17). None of those players were up for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season.

"What he’s done on both ends has been really remarkable," Donovan said. "A lot of times in these MVP races, people just focus on the offense, and they throw out offensive numbers all the time. This guy does it on both ends of the floor."

Other All-Defensive Team notes

• The NBA All-Defensive Second Team includes New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard.

• Other Thunder players receiving votes were Russell Westbrook (two First-Team, five Second-Team), and Terrance Ferguson (one Second-Team). Westbrook was fifth in the league in steals per game (1.9) and deflections (226), and fourth in loose balls recovered (134).

• Smart, a former All-American at Oklahoma State, made the All-Defensive team for the first time in his career. Smart was Boston’s best perimeter defender this season, ranking among the league leaders in steals per game (eighth, 1.8), total deflections (fourth, 228), charges drawn (13th, 15) and contested 3-point shots (third, 340).

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NBA All-Defensive Teams

First Team

Player, Team;;1stTV (2 pts);; 2ndTV (1 pt);;Total

Rudy Gobert, UTA;;97;;2;;196

Paul George, OKC;;96;;3;;195

Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL;;94;;5;;193

Marcus Smart, BOS;;63;;19;;145

Eric Bledsoe, MIL;;36;;28;;100

Second Team

Player, Team;;1stTV (2 pts);; 2ndTV (1 pt);;Total

Jrue Holiday, NOP;;31;;28;;90

Klay Thompson, GSW;;23;;36;;82

Joel Embiid, PHI;;4;;72;;80

Draymond Green, GSW;;2;;57;;61

Kawhi Leonard, TOR;;5;;29;;39

Erik Horne

Erik Horne is in his fourth season on the Thunder beat. Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013 following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The... Read more ›

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