Celtics guard Avery Bradley on Wednesday was named to the NBA's All-Defensive first team, a high honor for the 25-year-old stopper.
Bradley has long been considered one of the premier on-ball defenders in the league, but he felt that his relatively low steal total hurt him. But as the season unfolded, there was a groundswell of support for Bradley.
After the Celtics faced the Trail Blazers on March 31, Portland star Damian Lillard told Bradley he is the best perimeter defender in the league. When the Celtics played the Warriors one night later, Lillard's thoughts were relayed to Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who seconded them.
Later that night, after the Celtics snapped Golden State's league-record 54-game home winning streak, Bradley's teammates chanted for him to get all-defensive recognition as they celebrated in the locker room.
"Not to toot my own horn or anything, but there's a lot of players that tell me that," Bradley told the Globe that day. "But I wish that it was on paper.
"I feel like I improved every single year since the year I made the second-team all-defense, and to be honest, I feel like I don't campaign myself or anything, but I feel like I should be on first-team every single year."
Bradley received 62 first-team votes and finished with 149 total points in the voting, which is done by members of the media. He was joined on the first team by Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard — a unanimous selection — Warriors forward Draymond Green, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, and Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
Celtics forward Jae Crowder received three first-place votes and 47 points, the 13th-highest total in the league.
Guard Marcus Smart received 7 total points.
Bradley, who was a second-team all-defense pick in 2013, finished this season with 1.54 steals per game, a career high.
He was the top vote-getter among guards in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting.
"Just put it like this: The majority of the stars in the NBA usually tell me, like, 'Man, you're a problem,' " Bradley said in April. "I do take pride in defense. I just don't feel like I get all the credit that I deserve all the time."
Bradley strained his hamstring in the first game of Boston's first-round playoff series against the Hawks and missed the rest of the series, which Boston lost in six games.