Picking Sixers' team MVP, 6th Man of the Year and Most Improved Player

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We typically would be thinking much more about playoff matchups than the NBA's season awards in mid-April, but the 2019-20 season hasn’t been typical, to put it mildly.

With basketball now suspended for over a month because of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ll do a Sixers-only edition of the league’s annual awards.

MVP: Joel Embiid 

Embiid is the most efficient post-up player in the NBA. He’s averaging 1.12 points per possession on post-ups, the best in the league (minimum 50 post-ups). Embiid also has 49 more post-up possessions than any player, despite having played in only 44 games.

Since Embiid’s availability has again been limited for a variety of reasons — suspension, load management, a gruesome hand injury, a sprained shoulder — there’s a case to be made that he simply hasn’t played enough to merit the team’s MVP award. There have been other concerns with Embiid, too, including his public soul-searching about questions like how to best approach the regular season and how much he should value being mature.

We have Embiid beating out Ben Simmons because it is so clear how vital he is to the Sixers. The team is 11-10 without him, and it has a 101.4 defensive rating when he’s on the floor (better than the NBA-best Bucks’) and 109.4 defensive rating when he’s off it, which would rank 15th. He’s third in defensive win shares per game (minimum 30 games played). 

Throughout his NBA career, whether or not Embiid is on the court has been the top predictor of the Sixers’ success.

Rookie of the Year: Matisse Thybulle 

This one isn’t a difficult choice. Thybulle leads all rookies in steals and was poised to have a key role in the playoffs. 

Sixth Man of the Year: Furkan Korkmaz 

We give Korkmaz the smallest of edges over Thybulle. Considering the circumstances with Korkmaz entering the year, when his NBA career was apparently at a precipice, it’s an unlikely pick.

Out of all players that have taken at least 100 home threes, Korkmaz has the fourth-best shooting mark at 45.3 percent. Like with Thybulle, his outside shooting percentage is much worse on the road, but Korkmaz’s shotmaking at Wells Fargo Center has sometimes been sensational. He’s shown himself to be a player who can accumulate points in bunches when he’s surging with confidence and has rhythm. 

Thybulle seems a better bet to contribute positively in the playoffs because of his defense, but Korkmaz, who's appeared in every game but one, earns this regular-season award. 

Most Improved Player: Furkan Korkmaz

We’ll double up on Korkmaz, who was a 32.3 percent NBA three-point shooter heading into 2019-20. 

Shake Milton misses out here because he’s played in half as many NBA games as Korkmaz this year, and his improvement appears slightly more attributable to increased opportunity than Korkmaz’s. The Turkish wing got into better shape over the summer, performed well for his country in the FIBA World Cup and carried over his offseason work effectively. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Simmons

As Paul Hudrick wrote, Simmons should be in the running for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award. The physical talent has always been there, but Simmons’ night-to-night commitment has been much improved.  

He leads the league in steals, yes, but Simmons has also consistently stymied opposing stars of diverse sizes and styles. 

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