NBA award ballots 2021: Several Sixers make the cut

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With the 2021 regular season in the rearview mirror and the playoffs well underway, we at The Sixer Sense have decided to unveil our annual award ballots. Unfortunately, our votes do not count toward the real thing, but we hope our thoughts still hold weight. Several Sixers happened to crack the conversation this year.

Four writers here at the site — myself, Jonathan Geib, Kasey Kennedy, and Lucas Johnson — submitted ballots this season. Here are our picks.

2021 NBA awards ballot — Christopher Kline

Most Valuable Player

  1. Nikola Jokic
  2. Joel Embiid
  3. Stephen Curry
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  5. Luka Doncic

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Rudy Gobert
  2. Ben Simmons
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Sixth Man of the Year

  1. Joe Ingles
  2. Thaddeus Young
  3. T.J. McConnell

Most Improved Player

  1. Julius Randle
  2. Christian Wood
  3. Jerami Grant

Rookie of the Year

  1. LaMelo Ball
  2. Anthony Edwards
  3. Tyrese Haliburton

Coach of the Year

  1. Monty Williams
  2. Doc Rivers
  3. Tom Thibodeau

All-NBA First Team

  • Stephen Curry
  • Luka Doncic
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Joel Embiid
  • Nikola Jokic

All-NBA Second Team

  • Chris Paul
  • Damian Lillard
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Julius Randle
  • Rudy Gobert

All-NBA Third Team

  • Kyrie Irving
  • James Harden
  • Paul George
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Bam Adebayo

All-Defensive First Team

  • Ben Simmons
  • Matisse Thybulle
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Bam Adebayo
  • Rudy Gobert

All-Defensive Second Team

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Draymond Green
  • Joel Embiid
  • Clint Capela

All-Rookie First Team

  • LaMelo Ball
  • Tyrese Haliburton
  • Anthony Edwards
  • Jae’Sean Tate
  • Saddiq Bey

All-Rookie Second Team

  • Immanuel Quickley
  • Desmond Bane
  • Isaac Okoro
  • Patrick Williams
  • Isaiah Stewart

My ballot is mostly straight forward. Even as a writer for this beloved site, and a very dedicated connoisseur of Joel Embiid success narratives, I simply cannot ignore Nikola Jokic’s holistically brilliant 2021 campaign. This isn’t a “Joel didn’t play enough games” award. It’s a “Jokic is one of the best offensive players of his generation” award.

The same for Defensive Player of the Year. Ben Simmons is truly wonderful and his singular versatility deserves all the praise. That said, there is something to be said for elite rim protection. Rudy Gobert served as the anchor for an elite Jazz defense, and he continues to single-handedly alter the calculus of every offense he opposes. This was a signature season from arguably the signature defender of his generation. The Philadelphia fandom can only shrug and move on.

Beyond that, my ballot is pretty straight forward. I did not put two Jazz players on my Sixth Man of the Year ballot because you cannot, by mathematical definition, have two sixth men on the same team. My argument for Matisse Thybulle on First Team All-Defense can be found right here.

The Sixers are well represented overall. Even of Embiid and Simmons don’t take home the two big awards, having two players in the top-2 for MVP and DPOY is no small feat. Also, having three of the 10 most impactful defenders in basketball is significant — and most definitely what Doc Rivers and company will hang their hats on this postseason.

Oh, and also, where’s the Coach of the Year love for Doc Rivers? He has been almost universally excluded from the conversation and that feels strange given the progress Philadelphia has made in just one season. Monty Williams is my pick, but Rivers deserves recognition too.