It’s closing in on awards season. Paul George is aware of it. With only a quarter of the season to go, the Thunder forward is coming up in many conversations about Defensive Player of the Year. He’s never won before, despite making it onto three All-Defensive teams. And he said at Thursday’s shootaround, before the Thunder played in Sacramento, that he “absolutely” wants the NBA’s most prestigious defensive accolade. “Defense is a side of the ball I take pride in. So, why not want to be rewarded for something that you do?” George said. “I’m not out here to play defense to try to win it, but that’s just who I am.” George is building up the résumé for it. Oklahoma City ranked seventh in points allowed per possession heading into Thursday night’s action. And with co-pilot on the wing Andre Roberson down for the year with a knee injury, George is left to carry an even greater load, defending top-notch ball-handlers, protecting passing lanes off the ball and creating turnovers in whichever ways he can. “He always wants to guard the other team’s best player. That’s something he wants,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “In talking to him, he feels like his engagement in the game is much more predicated on his defense than it is his offense. He feels like he’ll get shots or be able to make some plays and whether the ball goes in or out, he understands its part of the game.” Only four non-big men have won Defensive Player of the Year since 1989: Seattle’s Gary Payton, Indiana’s Ron Artest and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, who has won it twice. George led the NBA in deflections per game and steals per game heading into Thursday’s match against the Kings. He’s hoping those numbers, a long-lived reputation for stifling defense and generally stellar play on the perimeter can help him become No. 4. “That’s a part of my game and what’s made me special on the court,” George said. “So, absolutely. That’s definitely an achievement I would love to receive.”