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Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George headline the NBA All-Defensive first team

Thursday 23 May 2019 06:32, UK

Giannis Antetokounmpo attempts to block a Paul George dunk
Image: Giannis Antetokounmpo attempts to block a Paul George dunk

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George - the three finalists for the 2018-19 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award - highlight the All-Defensive first team, announced by the league on Wednesday.

They were joined by Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe.

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Antetokounmpo and George are among the finalists for the MVP trophy as well. This is the third straight season that Gobert has been named to the first team, while George is making his second first-team appearance. This is the first first-team honour for Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe and Smart.

It is the first time the Bucks have had two players named to the first team since 1986, when Paul Pressey and Sidney Moncrief made first team for the second consecutive season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks with authority against Miami 15:05
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Led by Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe, the Bucks were the top-rated defense in the NBA this season and held opponents to a league-low 43.3 field goal percentage. Antetokounmpo averaged 1.5 blocks per game - the second-highest mark of his career - while Bledsoe added 1.5 steals per contest.

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Six-time All-Star George led the league with 3.8 deflections per game and 2.1 loose balls recovered per game. He ranked second with 4.9 points scored off opponent turnovers and maintained the third-most defensive win shares (.166) this season.

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George appeared in 77 games (all starts) and averaged career highs in points (28.0, second in NBA), rebounds (8.2), assists (4.1) and steals (2.21, first in NBA). The only other player to average as many points, rebounds and steals in a season since steals became an official stat was Michael Jordan in 1988-89.

Draymond Green in action for Golden State during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals
Image: Draymond Green in action for Golden State during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals

Selected to the second team were guards Jrue Holiday of New Orleans and Klay Thompson of Golden State; center Joel Embiid of Philadelphia; and forwards Draymond Green of Golden State and Kawhi Leonard of Toronto.

Green, who earned NBA Defensive Player of the Year honours in 2016-17, posted regular season averages of 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.44 steals and 1.06 blocks in 31.3 minutes over 66 games. He is the first player in Warriors franchise history to average at least one steal and one block in five consecutive seasons.

Klay Thompson celebrates after hitting a series-clinching three-pointer in Game 6 against the Houston Rockets
Image: Klay Thompson celebrates after hitting a series-clinching three-pointer in Game 6 against the Houston Rockets

Thompson earned his first career All-Defensive Team selection and is the 10th different player in Golden State's franchise history to earn All-Defensive honours since the NBA began the award in 1968-69.

Thompson averaged 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.08 steals in 34.0 minutes over 78 games en route to his fifth-straight All-Star selection in 2018-19.

The NBA All-Defensive Teams were selected by a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.

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