As the NBA heads into the final stretch of the regular season there are many awards still up for grabs. The MVP race is going to be exciting to watch, especially for Sixers fans with Joel Embiid in the thick of it. However, the race for Defensive Player of the Year is one that Sixers fans should be paying attention to. The Sixers’ elite defense has allowed both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to toss their hat in the ring.
Both of the Sixers’ stars bring unique things to the table when it comes to defense. In Embiid, the Sixers have an anchor on defense who can dominate in the paint and scare off opposing players. With Simmons, you have a lockdown defender who can quiet any player in the league on any given night. With that being said, who carries the best chance to deliver the Sixers their first Defensive Player of the Year since Dikembe Mutombo in 2001?
The casual NBA fan will probably say Joel Embiid and not think twice about it because of his MVP chances. While his defense certainly plays a role in his MVP resume, his offense is the bigger factor. A quick look at how Embiid has fared in DPOY voting shows a 4th place finish in 2019 and a 2nd place finish in 2018. Looking at the statistics, he currently sits at 74th in the league with a steal a game, and 14th in the league with 1.4 blocks a game. Those numbers certainly do not jump off the page, but with Embiid making his money on offense this season, they are still good. Joel Embiid remains an absolute terror in the paint, but he does not carry the same defensive value as Ben Simmons.
Simply put, Ben Simmons is the best defender in the NBA. Find me another player who can effectively guard the opposing team’s best players and consistently slow them down. Opposing teams have to specifically gameplan against Simmons and defensive prowess. After a 4th place finish in DPOY voting last season, Simmons is finally getting more respect as a top defender in the league. What makes Simmons’ case more impressive than Embiid’s is versatility. Embiid makes his money in the paint, but Ben Simmons can defend at an elite level anywhere on the court.
In the grand scheme of things, Ben Simmons carries a much better case for Defensive Player of the Year. Joel Embiid is still an elite defender and one of the best rim protectors in the league but with him missing games his case takes a hit. Rudy Gobert and Myles Turner are currently Ben Simmons’ biggest competition,
Both players are absolute game wreckers in the paint and carry a strong reputation on defense. It will be interesting to see what voters look for as the season comes to a close. Ideally, the voters can see Simmons’ versatility and his ability to be a lockdown defender as key attributes that will put him on top, but that remains to be seen. When it comes to which Sixer is more deserving of the award, the answer is Ben Simmons. It is certainly not a knock on Joel Embiid’s defense but what Ben Simmons is doing this season is special.
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