Spotlight | Another Month Passes, Another Honor Claimed
As time begins to run out on the 2017-2018 season, the body of work becomes more and more convincing.
Ben Simmons is solidifying his case to become the third player in 76ers history to win Rookie of the Year.
Thursday, the 21-year old Australian passed the latest milepost along a path that could possibly lead him to this destination, claiming KIA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for games played in February.
It was the second straight month that Simmons was recognized with the award, and third time this season. He also brought home the prize at the end of November, after bursting onto the professional scene.
Heading into the home stretch of his debut NBA campaign, Simmons has only seemed to get better, truthfully. At least that’s what the numbers say.
In 11 February outings, Simmons not only stood out as arguably the league’s most well-rounded, dynamic newcomer, but one of its top performers overall. His 16.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game paced the entire Eastern Conference rookie crop, while his averages of 7.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game ranked seventh and sixth, respectively, among all players.
Simmons enjoyed an extremely strong month in terms of efficient two-way production, too, as his 9.6 net rating for February (108.2 offrtg x 98.6 defrtg) was his best monthly mark yet.
Of greatest significance, at least in terms of this season’s collective mission, is that the point man played a crucial role in guiding the Sixers to an 8-3 February record, all while vaulting his club into the heart of the East’s playoff race.
A forward during his lone season at LSU, Simmons, since training camp, has been entrusted with the ultra-weighty responsibility of running the team. In many ways, his success at a position his coach deems to be the most difficult in the sport has exceeded expectations.
“We’ve taken a college four-man, and made him an NBA point guard,” Brett Brown said on February 22nd in Chicago, before Simmons, the 2016 No. 1 pick, went out and dropped a career-high 32 points on the Bulls.
That night, the 6-foot-10, 230-pounder deposited a pair of free throws that won the Sixers the game as well.
“All over the place, the story is amazing to me,” said Brown. “He’s responded with amazing sort of grace and poise, and the statistics he produces across the board - and that, to me, is the appropriate verbiage - is kind of shocking at times.”
Simmons manufactured four double-doubles in February, tied for the most among rookies. He was one of nine players last month to register a triple-double, thanks to his 18-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist showing against Miami on Valentine’s Day.
Another February highlight for Simmons was having the chance to take part in All-Star Weekend. He notched 11 points, 13 assists, and 6 rebounds in the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Game.
The day of the event, he was asked about the Rookie of the Year Race.
“I’m focused on my team making the playoffs,” Simmons said in Los Angeles. “All the other accolades and awards, they’ll come in time if I’m doing my job.”
He’s done that, and then some.
For the season, Simmons ranks second in rookie scoring (16.6 ppg), and paces his first-year peers in rebounding (7.7 rpg), assists (7.4 apg), and steals (1.8 spg). His 23 double-doubles are tied with MVP candidate James Harden for 16th-most in the NBA, while his six triple-doubles are tied for the third-highest total in the league.