The Sixers’ two All-Stars are, not surprisingly, finalists for two of the NBA’s most prestigious awards.
Joel Embiid is an MVP finalist and Ben Simmons is a Defensive Player of the Year finalist. The league announced its finalists for six awards Thursday night on NBA on TNT's pregame show.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was not a top-three finisher for Coach of the Year. The full list of finalists is below:
Here's a brief look at what Embiid and Simmons did to merit being finalists:
Defensive Player of the Year
Opponents shot 40.2 percent when defended by Simmons, the third-lowest mark of all players who guarded at least 400 field goals. Matisse Thybulle was first in that category at 37.2 percent. Among the high-level players Simmons defended impressively this season were Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Pascal Siakam and Luka Doncic.
Simmons tied for third in total deflections with Thybulle (202) and was ninth in steals per game (1.6). He’s a big reason why the Sixers finished No. 2 in defensive rating.
The 24-year-old had no issues articulating his case for Defensive Player of the Year when asked about that subject.
“I take pride in guarding the best player on the floor every night,” he said in February. “It’s not a one-off thing; if you watch me, I’m typically guarding the best player, and typically the best players are guards … and I love that.
"I love that my teammates can look at me and tell me, ‘You’ve got to go out and lock this guy up.’ There’s nights that guys go off — it’s going to happen — but most of the time I feel like I’m doing a good job and making the right plays. I feel like I’m the best defender in the NBA.”
Both Rudy Gobert and Draymond Green are prior Defensive Player of the Year winners. Simmons, who was fourth in the voting last year, has combined exceptional physical talents with exemplary commitment and tenacity to become a Defensive Player of the Year contender this season.
Most Valuable Player
Embiid, who was not even a member of any All-NBA team last season, is now an MVP finalist. He's had a special season, the best by a Sixer since the days of Allen Iverson.
There’s no doubt Embiid has been one of the league’s three most valuable players. He averaged 28.5 points on a 63.6 true shooting percentage and 10.6 rebounds. His 10.7 free throw attempts per game led the NBA, and his 85.9 percentage from the foul line was the best of his career.
The Sixers were 10-11 in the 21 games Embiid was sidelined. They’re clearly at their best when he’s available, but the 10 games he missed following a left knee bone bruise suffered on March 12 might ultimately cost him the award.
Jokic, who posted 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game for the No. 3 seed Nuggets, was tremendous throughout the season and also played in all 72 of Denver’s games. The Nuggets went 13-5 after Jamal Murray’s season-ending ACL tear.
Curry, a historically great shooter, recorded a league-leading 32.0 points per game and made 42.1 percent of his three-point shots. Whether his attempts are wide-open or tightly contested does not seem to matter when he’s in a zone, as the Sixers saw when he scored 49 points against them in April.