The Sixers have three of the NBA’s 10 best defenders, according to the panel of All-Defensive Team voters.
Ben Simmons on Monday night was named an All-Defensive First Team player for a second consecutive season. Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle were selected to the All-Defensive Second Team.
Danny Green received three Second-Team votes. Below are the teams in full:
Simmons came second to Jazz center Rudy Gobert in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
“Congrats to Rudy,” he said Saturday. “It is what it is. I’m not really concerned about individual awards. I want the championship. That’s my goal. Honestly, the goal was never Defensive Player of the Year, it was just to go out there and do my job and try to be the best defender in the league regardless of the awards. But the ultimate goal is a championship, and I’ve still got to do my job at a high level.”
Thybulle only played 20 minutes per game but did some incredible things defensively, regularly making gambles that seemingly no other player could successfully pull off.
Per 36 minutes, Thybulle had a league-high 2.9 steals and 2.0 blocks. Thybulle and Simmons each had 202 regular-season deflections, tied for third in the NBA. Thybulle’s 3.4 steal percentage and 2.8 block percentage were both far ahead of any other wing, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Players guarded by Thybulle shot 37.2 percent from the floor, the lowest mark of any player who defended at least 350 field goals.
“It’s funny, that whole defensive vote sometimes, they look at players and they look at their offensive numbers in a crazy way, which I’ve always thought is insane,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said in April. “If you’re a great defensive player, you’re a great defensive player — and Matisse is that, for sure. There’s not 10 better defenders in this league, I can tell you that. There may not be five.”
That Thybulle was a worthy All-Defensive pick while only starting eight games and averaging 3.9 points per contest indicates how exceptional of a defender he is.
Embiid, the runner-up to Nikola Jokic for MVP, anchored the Sixers’ No. 2-ranked defense, which allowed 2.5 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, per Cleaning the Glass.
Under new defensive coordinator Dan Burke, Embiid has shown his ability to thrive in a variety of defensive coverages, though elite rim protection has still been his calling card.
“He’s so versatile,” Rivers said last week. “It’s rare, with a guy his size, that you can bring him up in pick-and-rolls; that you can actually switch on a couple occasions; that you can trap; and you can be in a drop. Joel can do all those things, and he does them well.
“He has great feet, he really does, and that makes us pretty good defensively. So it is rare. Patrick Ewing … (Hakeem) Olajuwon was phenomenal defensively. But there’s not a lot of guys. That list is very short.”