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MVP: Ben Simmons
Volume has to matter, and Simmons played 18 more games than Joel Embiid, topping the big man in VORP and box plus-minus by comfortable margins.
Though it was true early in the year that Embiid's absence coincided with a massive dip in team performance, that disparity corrected itself as the season progressed and Simmons matured into a star. Embiid was out for more than half of the Sixers' franchise-record winning streak to close the season (if you count him as "out" in the game he played nine minutes before fracturing his face), and in that stretch, Simmons flirted with triple-doubles every night.
Simmons and Oscar Robertson are the only rookies to ever amass 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 600 assists in a season. And if we learned anything from studying Robertson's stats in comparison to Westbrook's during triple-double mania last year, it's that we should look askance at numbers compiled in the no-defense, breakneck-pace environment of the early 1960s.
Simmons' rookie season was one of the best ever. Full stop.
DPOY: Joel Embiid
Embiid finished fifth among centers in DRPM but will likely land no lower than third on most league-wide DPOY ballots. Among players who defended at least 400 shots inside of six feet, nobody held opponents to a lower field-goal percentage than Embiid, whose presence on the court coincided with a 99.7 defensive rating that would have ranked first in the league by nearly two full points.
Simmons became a fantastic defender over the course of the season, and Robert Covington owned a lower on-court defensive rating than Embiid, but neither matched the big man's intimidating overall impact.
Biggest Surprise: Simmons
Nobody saw this coming. Maybe the passing vision and ball-handling were foreseeable, but there was no way to imagine Simmons would carry himself like a veteran star—confident, aggressive, wholly unbothered by his weaknesses.
That's another thing: Everyone expected the lack of a jumper to limit his effectiveness. Instead, Simmons just used the tools he had (size, strength, quickness, anticipation) to work himself into whatever position on the floor he wanted. Being ineffective beyond the arc didn't matter because he could easily get to a spot where he was dangerous.
He's a bigger, faster, meaner Grant Hill. If you say you knew this was possible, you're a liar.
NBA Canonization Award: Saint Sam Hinkie
History has vindicated the Process. Blessed be the true believers.
This news has been published by title Kyrie Irving’s Absence Isn’t Hurting The Celtics. It’s Crushing LeBron’s Cavaliers.
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