Sixers’ Ben Simmons is neck in neck with Rudy Gobert for Defensive Player of the Year, per Doc Rivers
According to Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, the 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year race has already been whittled down to two candidates: his guy, Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons, and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
The Jazz All-Star is a two-time DPOY recipient, having won the award in back-to-back seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo earned his first Defensive Player of the Year award last season, while Gobert (3rd), and Simmons (4th) finished top-five in the voting.
Ahead of the First-Half finale between the Sixers and Jazz on Wednesday, Rivers told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that he thinks Simmons and Gobert should be the top-two vote-getters for the honor if the season ended today. Per Bontemps, Rivers would give Simmons the top spot, but he admitted to being biased as his head coach who witnesses his all-around impact on a nightly basis. Rivers said he would also give Simmons the nod due to the fact that he invaluably guards all five positions, unlike Gobert.
Simmons made his first appearance on the All-Defensive First Team in 2019-20, and has continued his versatile and stellar D into this season. His impact on the Sixers from the defensive end — along with MVP candidate Joel Embiid — has helped propel Rivers’ squad to the best record in the Eastern Conference, at 23-12.
In similar fashion, Gobert’s dominance in the middle and around the rim has helped lead the Jazz (27-8) to the top of the Western Conference as the All-Star break hits. The center is second in the league in blocks per game (2.8, trailing Clint Capela), and third in rebounds (13.2).