Covington and Embiid named to All-Defensive teams
Out of all the superb defensive teams in the NBA, not many expected the Sixers to break out. They were the third overall team in defense this year, led by standouts Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. While Simmons was named to the first all-rookie team, Embiid was named a finalist for the defensive player of the year award. This isn’t news to Philly fans, as the big man averaged 1.8 blocks, and 8.7 defensive rebounds per game. Not only was he an animal on the glass but was one of the NBA’s finest rim protectors this season. Another cog in Philadelphia’s defense was Robert Covington. The tenacious guard averaged 1.7 steals per game and was first in the league in defensive win shares. His improvement was a catalyst for the 76ers defense this season. Thankfully the NBA recognized his defensive prowess as well, naming him to the first all-defensive team.
Just how great was the Sixers defense this year?
At times, Philadelphia was unstoppable on the defensive end. Not a single team in the league boasted the defensive abilities that Covington and Embiid produced. Alongside Covington, Simmons also averaged 1.7 steals per game. This is a tremendous feat for a team that was ranked last in defensive efficiency a few years prior. Not many teams witness two players average more than 1.5 steals per game. This was essential in their backcourt pressure, which led the team to a top ten spot in steals per game.
Embiid was a major presence in the paint as well. His 1.8 blocks per game allowed the Sixers to finish in the top ten in blocks. Rebounding was another bright spot for Philly’s defense, they led the entire league in both total and defensive rebounds per game. It is no surprise that a team with defensive accolades like the Sixers would have multiple people named to all-defensive teams.
Philadelphia posted Embiid’s top ten plays of the year in support of his defensive achievements this season:
The best blocks, dunks and plays from @JoelEmbiid’s 2017-18 season.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 24, 2018
Covington also made an appearance on the Sixers Twitter page for his first team all-defensive award:
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 23, 2018
Embiid named to second-team all-NBA
Not only did the Kansas standout produce on the defensive end, but he stuffed the stat sheet on both ends of the court. After an injury-riddled 2017 season, Embiid made huge strides in his game. He perfected the low post hook shot and vastly improved his outside shooting. At times it seemed like he was unguardable and capable of producing a bucket on every possession. He averaged a ridiculous 22.9 points per game on 48.3 percent shooting from the field. Only a handful of players in the NBA give 100 percent effort throughout the entire 48 minutes and Embiid is one of them. Philly fans have waited a long time for all-stars to grace their lineups, however, nobody expected the big man to blossom into the star he has become. Philly might find long-term success if their all-defensive and all-NBA team standouts stay healthy.
How can all-defensive team standouts bring future success?
It is obvious to the average NBA fan that Philadelphia is going places. After receiving a top three draft pick for nearly half a decade, the Sixers are finally poised for championship caliber recognition. Although getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs might have been bitter, the ceiling for this team has no limit. Embiid and Covington flourished on the defensive end, enough to keep the team in the top three for defense all year.
Nobody expected this G-league star to explode onto the scene. His energy and hustle on the court provided the Sixers with the defensive spark they needed to control the tempo of any game. Embiid also contributed with his fearless determination at the time. He kept scorers and high flyers at bay the entire season with his tremendous blocks. If the Sixers are looking for longterm success, they found it in spades with their current stars. All-defensive and all-NBA awards are only a fraction of what the Sixers can accomplish if they maintain their core players. In addition, If the city of brotherly love can embrace its stars, the future might hold a championship trophy or two.
Featured Image: Keith Allison via Flickr
Stats per NBA.com