Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons has made it very clear that he should be the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year this season. Anytime he's asked about it, Simmons juices up his ability to guard one through five on a nightly basis.
For the last couple of seasons now, Simmons has established himself as a suffocating defender on the perimeter. While he might be the best in the league guarding around the arc, one of his teammates might be his toughest competitor in that category.
Sixers' second-year guard Matisse Thybulle has been a defensive standout since his days at the University of Washington. Ever since winning the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019, the Sixers assured Thybulle that they would acquire him no matter what in the 2019 NBA Draft.
76ers General Manager Elton Brand kept his promise. Although Thybulle wasn't necessarily recognized as a superstar coming out of college, he still earned notable minutes in his rookie season thanks to his defensive value.
In 65 games last year, Thybulle averaged just under 20 minutes on the floor. This year, he remained a key member of Philly's rotation. While Thybulle still has plenty of room to grow on the offensive side of the ball, his defensive value remains sky-high. And recently, his DPOY candidate teammate credited some of his success to Thybulle.
“I learned from him," Simmons said in regards to Thybulle on Monday night following a win over the Chicago Bulls. "I don’t think I’d be the defender I am today if he wasn’t on the team. I feel like we feed off each other in terms of getting stops and wanting to play that role and being those guys who can come in and stop guys and make it hard on certain players, which is a huge part of the team. If you don’t have guys who could do that, guys are gonna be scoring at will.”
That's some heavy praise coming from Simmons, who has raved about Thybulle more often than not this year. While Simmons tends to shade other players in the DPOY conversation when stating his own case for winning the award, the three-time All-Star has gone as far as saying Thybulle would take home the hardware if he played the same amount of minutes as himself.
At this point in the year, Thybulle has worked himself into the conversation of being a real DPOY candidate, despite coming off the bench. While his lack of minutes will more than likely keep him away from having a legitimate shot at winning the award, Simmons will certainly continue to credit the second-year guard for his high level of success if and when he possesses the award at the end of the year.