The race for the Defensive Player of the Year award this year has started to look like a two-person race between Ben Simmons and Rudy Gobert. Both of these players are having tremendous seasons, especially on the defensive side of the floor. But who has the edge? Simmons isn’t shying away from proclaiming himself as the frontrunner. Simmons spoke with Rachel Nichols on The Jump and shared why he feels he has one up on Rudy Gobert and used the opportunity to throw a jab in Gobert’s direction.
“Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Rudy, he’s great down there in the paint, but he’s not guarding everybody…he guarded me in Utah. And I had 42. And apparently, I’m not a scorer, so it is what it is.”Ben Simmons, The Jump
Simmons got his facts right, as he did drop 42 points versus the Jazz back in February. But that alone doesn’t mean Ben should be handed the award. Both players have a strong case to make. Gobert has been anchoring the defense on the best team in the league. In contrast, Simmons has really established himself as the go-to guy on defense that Doc Rivers can throw at any opposing player, no matter the position.
The 76ers are the second-best defensive team this season, with a defensive rating of 106.4. Even though Embiid missed a lot of time, Simmons held it down and helped the Sixers maintain their defensive ranking. On the other side, Gobert is ahead of Simmons when it comes to defensive win shares and real defensive plus-minus. But numbers don’t give us the full picture.
The eye test shows Simmons’s versatility, being able to guard players 1-4 (even 5s when facing small-ball lineups) and making his presence felt all over the floor. Gobert focuses on locking down the paint and doesn’t really go out to switch on the guards. It is really a matter of preference. You can’t go wrong by giving the award to either one of them. It’s a shame we don’t have any more matchups between these two rivals this season. Unless, of course, they meet in the Finals. That would be a great storyline.