In case you haven't heard - Ben Simmons has been campaigning for defensive player of the year. When asked about the DPOY race by ESPN's Rachel Nichols, Simmons brought up Utah's Rudy Gobert. "I mean [Gobert] guarded me in Utah," Simmons said. "And I had 42."
Simmons did score 42 points against the Jazz in a 134-123 loss, but his statement about Gobert was incorrect. As many fans clarified on social media, Gobert was only Simmons' primary defender on seven of his field goal attempts. According to Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, Simmons was 3/7 with nine points when Gobert was guarding him.
Simmons' comments about Rudy exemplify the struggle to evaluate defensive impact with only a box score. In the NBA, traditional stats carry a lot of weight with individual awards. For the most part, that works for the offensive awards. But the box score says very little about a players' impact defensively.
That is where advanced stats should come in to play. Beyond watching the game, advanced stats are the most helpful path to evaluating true defensive impact. Unfortunately for Simmons and his DPOY campaign, the advanced defensive stats suggest Gobert should be the clear leader for the DPOY award.
Bball Index, a twitter account that specializes in "easy to use NBA advanced stats," plotted two advanced defensive stats to measure defensive impact. Gobert was the clear outlier as the best defensive player in the NBA:
"Gobert's lead in LEBRON Defensive Points Saved over second place is the same as the gap from second place to 133rd place." - Bball Index
Gobert's defensive rating impact is the highest Bball Index has seen in their 12 years of existence. Ben Simmons' ranks third on his own team this season.
Time will tell whether Simmons' campaign will sway voters come season's end. For now, Gobert's let's his defensive effort speak for itself. As we wrote last week, Walter Payton once said great play speaks for itself:
"When you're good at something, you'll tell everyone. When you're great at something, they'll tell you." - Walter Payton
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