Simmons comes 2nd to Gobert for Defensive Player of the Year award


For the third time in the last four seasons, Jazz center Rudy Gobert has taken home the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Sixers' Ben Simmons finished second to Gobert, garnering just 15 first-place votes compared to Gobert's 84:

The last Sixer to win Defensive Player of the Year was Dikembe Mutombo in the 2000-01 season.

Joel Embiid, the runner-up finisher in MVP voting, endorsed Simmons for Defensive Player of the Year in April while also acknowledging some of his other teammates who helped the Sixers finish the regular season with the NBA’s No. 2 defensive rating. 

“This year he’s been a monster,” Embiid said. “He deserves it. The way he guards every player on the floor — the best players, best perimeter players on the opposing team every single night — he’s been bringing it. Yes, I really do think he should be the Defensive Player of the Year.

“But then again, there are a few guys on the team that also deserve their respect when it comes to that. I keep mentioning Matisse (Thybulle). We’ve got a bunch of great guys that do their best defensively. But the guys that stand out are Matisse, Tobias (Harris) has been underrated all season, and you’ve also got me when it comes to All-Defensive teams. But Ben, he is the Defensive Player of the Year.”

Per Cleaning the Glass, opponents scored 3.1 fewer points per 100 non-garbage possessions with Simmons on the floor compared to when he was off it. 

He tied for third in total deflections with Thybulle (202) and recorded 1.6 steals per game. Opponents shot 40.9 percent this season when guarded by Simmons. 

As he pointed out in February, many of those players were star guards and wings. 

“I take pride in guarding the best player on the floor every night,” he said. “It’s not a one-off thing; if you watch me, I’m typically guarding the best player, and typically the best players are guards … and I love that.

"I love that my teammates can look at me and tell me, ‘You’ve got to go out and lock this guy up.’ There’s nights that guys go off — it’s going to happen — but most of the time I feel like I’m doing a good job and making the right plays. I feel like I’m the best defender in the NBA.”

Gobert led the NBA in defensive win shares, defensive real-plus minus and a host of other advanced categories. Despite a few lowlights this season against the Sixers, it was not at all hard to make a case for Gobert deserving this award. 

Simmons enjoyed having Gobert as one of the players defending him when he scored a career-high 42 points in the Sixers’ Feb. 16 loss to the Jazz.

“I loved when I saw Rudy was guarding me,” he said. “I love being able to go at somebody like that. I feel like it was a little bit of disrespect putting him on me, but it is what it is.”

Simmons was not the only Sixer to receive Defensive Player of the Year votes. Embiid finished seventh with two second-place votes and one third-place vote. Thybulle finished tied for 11th with a single third-place vote. 

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