The Philadelphia 76ers are currently the league’s second best defensive team, behind only the Lakers, with a 106.4 defensive rating that has helped propel them to the top spot in the East. Joel Embiid, who despite missing nearly a month with a knee injury is firmly in the MVP discussion, and Ben Simmons are the primary reasons for their defensive prowess, but from top to bottom they have a group that has bought in on that end and makes life miserable for opponents, particularly in the fourth quarter when they tighten the grips and boast a 101.9 foruth quarter defensive rating (best in the league).
Simmons hasn’t been shy about making his feelings on where he should stand in the Defensive Player of the Year race known, as he has made his case for winning the award on a few occasions. He did so again last night after the Sixers beat up on the Mavs and then again on Tuesday in a sitdown with Rachel Nichols for The Jump, in which he gave quite the argument for why he should be the choice over two-time DPOY Rudy Gobert.
“He guarded me in Utah…and I had 42, and apparently I’m not a scorer. So it is what it is,” said Simmons immediately after saying he has “a lot of respect for Rudy,” which makes it even better.
His case of being arguably the most versatile defender in the NBA is probably a better argument than him dropping 42 points on Gobert and the Jazz, but it makes for a great quote. Simmons has been spectacular on defense this season, as he regularly draws the opposing team’s best offensive player 1 thru 4. He can guard some centers, but when Embiid is around (who also believes he’s a DPOY candidate), that isn’t necessary. Having two elite defenders who may quibble with each other over who is the DPOY is a good problem to have in Philly, and it’ll be interesting to see how voters see it.
Unfortunately the Jazz and Sixers don’t meet again in the regular season to settle the score, but you can be sure that’s not why Simmons made these comments, as he had some spice for the Nets on Monday as well ahead of their showdown for the top spot in the East on Wednesday.