Rudy Gobert or Ben Simmons: Who is the Defensive Player of the Year?
Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons are the two front-runners for the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) right now. While many are focusing on the MVP race, the DPOY race is actually more heavily contested. Both Simmons and Gobert have good cases for the award and both their teams have been utterly dominant this season. A lot of this credit is due to their co-stars in Joel Embiid and Donovan Mitchell, but their impact cannot be understated either.
While one could make the argument the 76ers’ success is reliant on the health of Ben Simmons, the DPOY as of right now has to be Rudy Gobert. Before the Philly fanbase comes at me with pitchforks, bear in mind I am a Denver Nuggets fan. I have had my fair share of fun slandering Rudy Gobert. However, being perfectly objective here, I can make the argument that Gobert has the edge over Simmons in the DPOY race right now.
The Defensive Player of the Year Right Now: Rudy Gobert
While I do agree that Simmons is the best defender on the 76ers, one can still make a solid argument that Joel Embiid is the best defensive player on that squad. On the Jazz, it is really no contest. Take away Gobert, and the Jazz suddenly have little to no rim protection. Also, let’s take a look at a couple of clips.
This clip was circulating on social media a couple of days ago to help further Simmons’ case for DPOY. The problem? He clearly fouls Lonzo Ball here by hooking his arm and gets away with a no-call. Let’s take a look at another video.
We see in this clip at about the 10-second mark that Simmons gets completely taken out of the play on a double-screen and looks to basically give up on the sequence. This is not a good look for someone who claims they’re the DPOY. This is only one instance of his off-ball defense leaving something to be desired. Now, let’s take a look at some of Gobert’s highlights.
Here, we see Rudy Gobert block the likely MVP in Nikola Jokic in a crucial moment of a tight division rivalry matchup. This helped swing the momentum and was the nail in the coffin for the Denver Nuggets. What about Gobert’s help defense though?
Here are multiple examples of Gobert playing elite defense when not guarding his primary opponent. Defense is not always coming away with flashy steals or monster blocks. Much of it comes down to altering shots and as the video highlights, deterring players from attempting a shot at the rim, the most valuable shot attempt for an offense. Now, we can’t have an award debate without discussing everyone’s favorite (or most hated) aspect, the statistics.
Rudy Gobert vs. Ben Simmons: How Their Defensive Numbers Compare to Each Other
Here are the basic defensive stats for both players. As of May 5, 2021, Simmons is averaging 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 5.7 defensive rebounds per game. As for Gobert, he is tallying 0.7 steals, 2.8 blocks (leading the league), and 10.0 defensive rebounds per game. The advanced defensive numbers also tell a similar story.
Ben Simmons is averaging a defensive win share of 3.2 compared to Rudy Gobert’s total of 4.9, which is also leading the league in this statistical category. Gobert is also only allowing centers to shoot 43.8 percent against him, and guards and forwards to shoot less than 35.0 percent from three-point territory. As for Ben Simmons, he is allowing guards to shoot 40.2 percent from the three-point range when guarded by him. Now, he is keeping forwards below 40.0 percent from the field to give him some credit. Still, with all of this in mind, it is clear that Rudy Gobert is on track for his third Defensive Player of the Year at this time.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images