In an “NBA awards prediction” article posted a few days ago by ESPN, a group of NBA insiders highlighted who they felt would be walking away with the league’s hardware in a few weeks’ time. They had the usual debates, Zion or Ja Morant for “Rookie of the Year”? LeBron or Giannis for “Most Valuable Player”?
However, when it came to their “Defensive Player of the Year” list, fans began to express some confusion.
The obvious omission on the list is of course that of Ben Simmons. In pretty much every statistical category possible, Simmons has been one of the leagues’ best defenders this season, if not the best.
-2.1 steals per game (leads NBA)
-4.0 deflections per game (3rd in NBA)
-5.8 defensive rebounds per game (2nd amongst all guards)
-3.2 Defensive Win Shares (1st amongst all guards)
-0.6 blocks per game (8th amongst all guards)
-35.7 minutes per game (9th in NBA)
-2.4 Defensive Box +/- (8th in NBA)
Whether looking at stereotypical box score stats or underlying metrics, Simmons ranks towards the top of the league in almost every relevant category possible. Being used as the Sixers’ primary go-to defender this season following the departure of Jimmy Butler, the third-year point guard has done nothing but impress. Matching up with guys like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Jayson Tatum, Simmons has had his way defensively with a plethora of stars this year.
The Sixers ranked 14th in team defensive rating in 2018-19, this year they’ve jumped all the way up to 6th.
Outside of the glaring lack of Simmons’ name, the rest of the DPOY rankings are quite strange as well. Rudy Gobert has had a noticeable down year in terms of his rim protection, and the gap between Giannis and Anthony Davis isn’t nearly as large as portrayed.
On top of that, including Patrick Beverley and Bam Adebayo over guys like Marcus Smart, Jrue Holiday, and Kawhi Leonard seems pretty baseless as well.
Other noticeable award predictions from ESPN included Giannis winning MVP, Morant winning ROTY, Nick Nurse (Raptors) winning “Coach of the Year”, Montrez Harrell winning “Sixth Man of the Year”, and Bam Adebayo winning “Most Improved”.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports