In the 2000-01 season, the Philadelphia 76ers nearly pulled off a complete sweep of NBA season awards, taking out MVP (Allen Iverson), Defensive Player of the Year (Dikembe Mutombo), Coach of the Year (Larry Brown), and Sixth Man of the Year (Aaron McKie).
This current iteration of the 76ers has a real chance to pull off a similar feat.

I have already discussed Joel Embiid’s MVP case here and here, and most assuredly will again before the end of the season.

This article will focus on the Sixers’ other award chances.

Ben Simmons // Defensive Player of the Year

Ben Simmons’s case here is really quite simple; he is the best defender in the NBA. Rudy Gobert may have more impact on his team’s defense because of how much they rely on his rim protection and rebounding, but when it comes to defending an opponent 1 on 1, Simmons is miles ahead.

Gobert is a problem that can be solved; this has been the case for years now, with the Frenchman dominating on the defensive end during the regular season only to be exposed by playoff opponents who have time to plan and prepare for him. We have seen an example of a team solving the Gobert problem already this season with the Los Angeles Clippers playing Marcus Morris at the center to stretch the floor and get Rudy away from the basket.

Gobert’s greatest strengths on defense are completely negated when he is drawn away from the basket, and the Clippers took advantage of that on the way to a win over the league-leading Jazz.

Simmons himself also put a major dent in Gobert’s DPOY campaign in their only matchup so far this season. After a much-maligned start to the season, Ben Simmons put up a career-high 42 points against Gobert and the Jazz.

Following the game, Simmons commented:

“I felt like it was a bit disrespectful putting him on me, but it is what it is.”

That is the difference between the two players; no one in the league would feel disrespected by Simmons guarding them. Ben has been tasked with guarding the best of the best this season, including Damian Lillard, James Harden, LeBron James, and most recently Luca Doncic. Simmons has matched up with the opponent’s top offensive weapon no matter their size or skill set.

While players have been able to get stats against Simmons, they have had to work hard to get them, and certainly, no team has been able to take advantage of a Ben Simmons matchup on the defensive end this year.

If Simmons can add a couple more superstar scalps to his list (Durant or Giannis would be nice), then his case for Defensive Player of the Year may be too compelling for voters to ignore.

Doc Rivers // Coach of the Year

Photo: Chris Szagola/AP

Doc Rivers will coach one of the teams in this year’s All-Star Game, thanks to the Sixers own the Eastern Conference’s best record heading into the mid-season break.

Rivers has taken a highly dysfunctional 6th seed from a first-round playoff exit to the best team in their conference over the course of his first few months in Philadelphia. Admittedly off-season roster moves are also to thank for the team’s improved performance, but Rivers’ impact should not be underestimated.

Doc has got career-best seasons from his best players in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. The team’s offense looks far less stagnant, and their defense is among the league’s best. Players have been given well-defined roles suited to their skill set, which has empowered them to reach their potential, Seth Curry and Shake Milton are good examples of this. Rivers is also bringing along young players Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle slowly but surely.

The Sixers still have major issues with 3-point shooting, turnovers, and bench play, but if Doc can remedy these by the end of the reason, he will have proven without a doubt to have been the best coach in the league this season.

Featured Image: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
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