Simmons ‘robbed’ in NBA awards thrashing

Aussie guard Ben Simmons was considered a contender for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, but when it came down to the vote, the Philadelphia 76ers star fell well short.

Rudy Gobert saved Utah’s opening game of the second round with a blocked shot, the kind of play that’s earned him recognition as the NBA’s best defender.

Gobert broke a tie with him for most Defensive Player of the Year awards in franchise history by winning it for a third time.

A night after a game-sealing blocked shot in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, Gobert received 84 first-place votes and 464 points from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.

Simmons was second with 15 first-place votes and 287 votes, while Draymond Green of Golden State was third with 76 points.

Simmons himself declared in February that he felt like he was “the best defender in the NBA”.

“I take pride in guarding the best player on the floor every night,” Simmons said at the time, per CBS Sports.

“It’s not a one off thing. If you watch me [play], I’m typically guarding the best player. And typically the best players are guards, or shooting guards, whatever it is. And I love that. I love the fact that my teammates 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.”

And later this year in April, Simmons even took a shot at his defensive rival Gobert.

“I’m one of those guys who can guard one to five,” Simmons told ESPN.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of respect for Rudy. I know what he’s capable of. I know he’s great down there in the paint, but he’s not guarding everybody and that’s just what it is.

“He guarded me in Utah … I had 42 and apparently I’m not a scorer. It is what it is, but I have a lot of respect for him. At the same time, I think it’s mine this year.”

Unfortunately those voting did not see it the same way as Simmons.

Gobert had the most total blocked shots and defensive rebounds in the league this season and became the fourth player to win the award at least three times after leading the Jazz to the best record in the league.

Gobert was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019. Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace each won it four times and Dwight Howard three.

Some in the NBA world were convince Simmons was hard done by in the voting.

With Gobert in the middle, the Jazz went 52-20 and earned the overall No.1 seed for the first time. They limited teams to 44.7 per cent shooting, second-lowest in the league.

As more teams turn to smaller lineups and shoot from further away from the basket, it’s tougher for traditional centers to stay on the floor.

Gobert welcomes the challenge.

“For me it’s really been about getting better every single year and teams have been trying to negate my impact one way or another every single year,” Gobert said.

“So I had to raise my level year after year and day after day to be able to try to keep dominating on that end.”

Miami’s Bam Adebayo earned the other first-place vote and finished fourth. Giannis Antetokounmpo rounded out the top five.

Antetokounmpo ended Gobert’s reign last year during a disappointing finish to the season for the native of France. Gobert’s positive test for the coronavirus triggered the NBA’s shutdown in March, and after play resumed the Jazz blew a 3-1 lead in the first round against Denver.

But the Jazz powered through this season and took Game 1 in the second round against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday when Gobert blocked Marcus Morris’ 3-point attempt to preserve a 112-109 victory.

Gobert makes game-sealing block

Gobert averaged 14.3 points and 13.5 rebounds, tying a career high, in 71 games. His 2.7 blocks per game ranked second in the league.

His teammates surprised him by leaving the award on his chair in the locker room. Gobert said he was touched by their happiness because of how much enjoys the connection they’ve developed defending together.

“It’s been fun to, whether we have a big lineup or small lineup, being with my four teammates on the floor and try to do anything I can to make them better,” Gobert said.

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