If Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons is excited over being named a finalist for NBA Defensive Player of the Year, he's sure doing a good job of playing it cool.
A day after the league announced the finalists are Simmons, Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert, the Sixers star told reporters he's not celebrating until the award is resting in his trophy case.
“I won’t get excited until I win it," Simmons said.
The final results will be released by TNT during the playoffs.
Simmons has been in this position before, of course.
He finished fourth in DPOY voting last season—one spot behind Gobert—and sweated through a controversial Rookie of the Year process in 2017-18 after having been drafted two years earlier. But winning ROY and DPOY of the year present different challenges.
In going up against some of the best defenders in the league, Simmons has fought to prove he can guard any player at any position on any night.
Among the DPOY finalists, Gobert owns the best defensive rating at 100.9 while leading the league in defensive field goal attempts (19.1). Simmons posted a 106.0 defensive rating, while continuing to average 0.6 blocks and 1.6 steals per game—all while dropping his fouls per game from 3.3 last season to 2.9 in 2020-21.
Green, meanwhile, owns a 109.3 defensive rating on a team that finished 39-33 and continues to fight for a spot in the postseason.
With the Utah Jazz and Sixers having clinched the No. 1 seeds in the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively, there's no downplaying the impact either player has provided. That Simmons played with an MVP finalist in Joel Embiid all season may not help his case, but it certainly won't hurt it, either.
In any case, Simmons is keeping his emotions in check. With a postseason run to worry about and the Sixers' title window getting smaller and smaller, whether or not he's a finalist for DPOY matters little.
He'll celebrate the trophy or move on entirely.