Simmons is pushing his DPOY case, but he's not the only one


When he's been asked about the Defensive Player of the Year award, Ben Simmons has not deviated from the opinion that he wants the honor and thinks he is deserving.

Simmons hasn’t been reluctant to speak about his own prowess. If a reporter wants his view, he’s going to share it. And, with approximately a month now left in the regular season, end-of-season awards have become a more popular topic.

Friday night, he had an All-Star teammate pushing his case.

“This year he’s been a monster,” Joel Embiid said after scoring 36 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the Sixers’ 106-103 win over the Clippers. “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.”

Thybulle is actually tied with Simmons for eighth in total steals. He’s played fewer minutes than anyone within the top 36 in steals, and he comfortably leads all NBA wings in steal percentage and block percentage, according to Cleaning the Glass.

In Thybulle’s mind, Simmons finds himself being discussed as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate because, to borrow a favorite phrase of Simmons’, he’s perpetually locked in. 

“I’d say it's his consistent intensity on the defensive end, his ability to show up at key times and just be a menace,” Thybulle said following the Sixers’ shootaround Friday. “Guys, they don’t know what to do. He’s too big, he’s too fast, he’s too strong. It really just comes down to his effort.”

Clippers head coach Tyrone Lue has also been impressed with that part of Simmons’ game, as many coaches around the league are. Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy recently called Simmons the league’s best defender. 

“He wants it,” Lue said Friday before playing the Sixers. “He wants to guard the best player. Just seeing him playing last year, one time he ran all the way across the court to try to get to Kawhi (Leonard), (stop) a wide-open layup on the other side of the court — because he wants to guard the best. … If you watch Philly play, he does it every single night. He wants that challenge and he takes that challenge, and that’s 80 percent of the battle right there, just wanting that challenge every single night.”

Simmons is indeed focused on his own defense and the Sixers’ goal of securing the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. The team remains a game ahead of the Nets, who will play Sunday afternoon against the Heat. However, he’s not oblivious to other awards, including the one Embiid still believes he should win. 

“I don’t think teams really know what to do when guarding him,” he said of Embiid with a laugh. “I think he’s clearly the MVP this season. He’s been so dominant and consistent this whole year. And he’s been healthy, which has been great for us. I don’t know how to stop him.”

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