Updated: 9:40 p.m.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons believed throughout this season they should be named Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, respectively. On Wednesday, the NBA revealed both are finalists for their sought-after awards.
Defensive Player of the Year
Embiid is up against Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis. Before he declared last week his new goal of winning MVP, Embiid had his sights set on this award. He didn’t hold back on why he should win it, either.
“I still feel like I’ve been the best defensive player in the league this year,” Embiid said in April (see story). “Last year, I kind of had the knock on me of not playing a lot of games, but this year I’ve played a lot of games, so I don’t know what excuse they’re going to find next.”
Embiid: 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 0.6 steals
Gobert: 13.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 0.8 steals
Davis: 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks*, 1.5 steals
* = led the NBA
Rookie of the Year
Simmons is in a highly-anticipated race against Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. Mitchell took a shot at Simmons by wearing a sweatshirt with the definition of the word “rookie” on it to question Simmons’ eligibility. Simmons missed all of last season because of a foot injury and has emphasized no time spent around a team while sidelined can replicate actually playing in a game.
The Sixers' point guard also said he would like to win the award for teammates Embiid and Dario Saric, who lost to Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon last season (see story).
“It would mean a lot, but at the same time I don’t really judge my success on one accolade,” Simmons said recently. “So whatever the decision is, it is. But obviously, I’d take myself over anybody.”
Simmons: 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds*, 8.2 assists*, 1.7 steals*
Mitchell: 20.5 points*, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals
Tatum: 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals
* = led all rookies
In other awards …
Brett Brown had made a strong case to be in Coach of the Year contention. The Sixers improved from 28 wins to 52 and finished with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics’ Brad Stevens, Jazz’s Quin Snyder and now-former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey are the finalists in that category. The Raptors and Celtics finished as the top two teams in the East.
Rounding out the awards, Davis, Rockets guard James Harden and Cavaliers forward LeBron James are in the battle for MVP. Rockets guard Eric Gordon, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet and Clippers guard Lou Williams are up for the Sixth Man award. Rockets center Clint Capela, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie and Pacers guard Victor Oladipo will vie for Most Improved Player.
The votes were cast before the playoffs and based on regular-season performances. The winners will be announced on June 25 at the 2018 NBA Awards in Santa Monica, California.