Sixers Coach Doc Rivers Isn't Sweating Ben Simmons' DPOY 'Snub'
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons has had a goal of becoming the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year for a couple of seasons now. This year, it seemed the 24-year-old guard was well on the path to accomplishing that goal.
As one of the most versatile defenders in the league, who can guard one through five and embraces the challenge of taking on each team's best player in every matchup, Simmons believed he'd shown more than enough to earn the award.
But the voters didn't think so. While Simmons was a top-three finalist, the young guard didn't want to celebrate it until he knew the final results. As Simmons refused to get excited over being a potential honorable mention, he held out until the final results came out. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers believed Simmons did enough to win DPOY, but Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert took it home for the third time.
Just like that, the Sixers have two runner-ups for major awards in the same week. On Tuesday, the NBA announced that Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was the league's Most Valuable Player in 2020-2021. Embiid, who was a finalist, came in second place. As for DPOY, Simmons ranked second behind Gobert and in front of Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green.
“I was disappointed Joel didn’t win MVP," said Sixers head coach Doc Rivers. "But I thought, when you think of (Jokic), and what he’s done all year and that he’s played in the amount of games that he played in, he was the worthy winner. I feel the same way about that with Ben. Ben missed a ton of games as well, but what I love about both is the last couple years, they weren’t mentioned in either one of those categories, and now they’re on the board.”
Similar to how he reacted to Tobias Harris' All-Star snub earlier in the year, Rivers looked on the bright side of the situation. Last year, Simmons and Embiid failed to earn top-three honors in the DPOY and MVP categories. This year, they nearly won. While the initial snub might sting a bit, their ability to become finalists this season could make it easier for voters to have them on the radar again next year.
“With their youth and growth, I do think in the future in the near future, Ben will be Defensive Player of the Year and Joel will be MVP,” Rivers concluded. “A lot of times, you have to have an MVP season the year before you become the MVP, and the same thing with any of these awards.”
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_ & Instagram: @JGrassoNBA.