NBA awards: Thoughts on MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and more

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From MVP to Executive of the Year, 1 thought on every award relevant to Sixers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

There’s an infinite amount of opinions one can hold on the NBA’s end-of-season awards.

We won't dissect all of them, but let’s run through the awards relevant to the Sixers and share a thought on each one:

MVP

Unless the oddsmakers are very wrong, Nikola Jokic will win MVP. He deserves it after averaging 26.4 points on a 64.7 true shooting percentage, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists. 

Jokic is a special passer who also scored a lot and did so efficiently while playing every game for the No. 3 seed Nuggets, who went 13-5 after Jamal Murray’s ACL tear. 

Availability isn’t everything, but it matters when the competition is a player like Jokic. Though Joel Embiid’s left knee bone bruise in March was not his fault, it unfortunately works against him. Embiid was brilliant when healthy and will likely finish within the top-three. 

Defensive Player of the Year 

Whatever advanced defensive metric one prefers, it will tell you Rudy Gobert’s impact is immense. This story by Ben Dowsett for FiveThirtyEight is an interesting read on that subject.

Gobert had low moments in his two games against the Sixers this year, yes, but that’s not something that should meaningfully impact a race that accounts for an entire season. 

Ben Simmons is speedier, more agile and more capable of guarding perimeter and wing stars. He’s improved defensively after an All-Defensive First Team season last year, but he's not the no-brainer Defensive Player of the Year. 

Coach of the Year 

However one defines “accountability,” the Sixers were not immaculate on that front under Brett Brown. Head coach Doc Rivers deserves credit for getting the team on board with his system in Year 1, helping the Sixers go from the sixth to first seed in the Eastern Conference.

“I thought that was as important as anything we do basketball-wise, is holding each guy accountable,” Rivers said Sunday. “Having an accountable organization. I really did. I said it this summer to our group, that we have to start with us — with the front office, the coaching staff, everybody. And then we have to get that to the players. But accountability is very important in business, in sports, in everything we do.”

The Suns’ Monty Williams, Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau and Utah’s Quin Snyder are strong candidates who guided their teams above expectations. The honor would be well-earned for any of them. 

While Rivers’ name should be in the mix, it doesn’t appear he’ll earn this award 21 years after he did for the first time. We’re assuming he’d be thrilled if Thibodeau, a good friend and former assistant coach of his, was the pick. Williams and Snyder were both Sixers assistants at one stage, meaning the winner will almost certainly have a Sixers connection. 

Executive of the Year 

Sixers president of basketball Daryl Morey might not win Executive of the Year for a second time in four years. Did any NBA executive have a better single evening than his first draft night with the Sixers, though? We doubt it.

Morey dealt away Al Horford and Josh Richardson, acquiring Danny Green and Seth Curry. He also selected Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed with picks No. 21, 49 and 58. All three rookies look to be considerably better than the average player taken where they were drafted. 

From there, Morey hasn’t done much of note transactionally other than signing Dwight Howard to a veteran minimum deal in free agency. He hasn’t needed to, because his draft-night moves were so spot-on.

All-NBA teams 

Embiid was comfortably one of the NBA’s five best players this season. Both he and Jokic are eligible at forward and center. Even if listing one of the NBA’s two best high-volume post-up players as a power forward might sound counterintuitive, the view here is it would be the right choice.

All-Defensive teams 

Matisse Thybulle was tied for third in total deflections and tied for third in total steals despite playing only 20 minutes per game. His 2.9 steals per 36 minutes led the league. His 2.8 block percentage was best among NBA wings by a landslide, according to Cleaning the Glass. Derrick Jones Jr.’s 2.1 block percentage ranked second. 

Thybulle isn’t a one-trick pony reliant on risk-taking. Of all players to defend at least 400 shots, he had the lowest defensive field goal percentage (37.8). Zach LaVine, De’Aaron Fox, Devin Booker, Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal were five of the six players he spent the most time guarding, so that number wasn’t boosted by matchups against mediocre players. 

The outlier statistics match the impression that he’s playing a different sport than everyone else. At 24 years old, he’s worthy of being on an All-Defensive team. No question.