Dynamic Defense

Recapping Ben Simmons' Award-Worthy Season
by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

The Prince played defense like a King this season, and the subsequent reward was not only handsome, but well-deserved.

In an announcement made Tuesday by the NBA, the two-time All-Star was named to the 2019-20 All-Defensive First Team, becoming just the seventh player in 76ers' history to earn a First Team nod.  

Simmons ranked second among all players in receiving 88 First-Team votes. Only 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo, who tallied 97 First-Team votes, finished with more.

Simmons, the youngest athlete chosen for this year's All-Defensive First Team, racked up 185 total vote points, good for third-highest behind Antetokounmpo (195) and Anthony Davis (187).

"The things Ben has been able to accomplish this early in his career are truly special," General Manager Elton Brand told Sixers.com. "At only 24 years old, he has emerged as one of the league's best defenders."

There are several significant stats that certainly support this belief.

Simmons wrapped up the 2019-20 campaign as the NBA's regular season leader in steals, averaging 2.1 per game. He joins Allen Iverson as the only Sixers to ever lead the league in swipes, a feat the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer achieved three straight seasons, from 2001 through 2003.

Further underscoring the havoc Simmons wreaked, the 2016 no. 1 pick ranked third in the NBA with 3.9 deflections per game. He generated league-best marks of 1.0 defensive loose balls and 1.7 total loose balls recovered per game as well. 

As good as Simmons' numbers were this season, the beauty of his defensive game lies in its versatility. 

"He's capable of guarding every position on the floor," said Brand.

Combine Simmons' switchability with his elite athleticism, strength, sense of anticipation, and finishing power in transition, and you've got a dynamic game-changer. 

On the heels of last May's second-round playoff exit, Simmons vowed to return even better on the defensive end. More than a year later, there's bona fide, tangible proof of his progress. 

"I congratulate Ben on making All-Defensive First Team," Brand said, "and look forward to his continued success for many years to come." 

Amen. 

Here's a look back at what we consider to be a handful of Simmons' best defensive showings of the season. 

OCTOBER 26, 2019 VS. DETROIT PISTONS

In just the second game of the season, Simmons made a statement, snagging a then-career high seven steals in a 117-111 victory at Little Caesars Arena. He's only the seventh 76er since Allen Iverson to register that many steals in a game.

NOVEMBER 29, 2019 VS. NEW YORK KNICKS

New York may have entered this post-Thanksgiving bout with only four wins, but you wouldn't have known it after 12 minutes. The Knicks led 31-18. The Sixers managed to grind their way back into the game in the third quarter, and it was Simmons - with a clutch sideline steal and subsequent slam - who helped his club eventually get over the hump, 101-95.

NOVEMBER 30, 2019 VS. INDIANA PACERS

With the Sixers down a point and Indiana with the ball with 40 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Simmons shifted to the high gear of his defensive soul. He first intercepted a cross-court pass by T.J. Warren that led to a go-ahead Tobias Harris dunk. 

On the Pacers' ensuing possession, Simmons trapped five-man Myles Turner along the sideline for a mid-court steal. Indiana was forced to foul Harris, who put the Sixers up three with 5.1 seconds left. Moments later, Simmons then fittingly came up with his third steal in less than 13 seconds to clinch a hard-fought Eastern Conference win, 119-116.

DECEMBER 8, 2019 VS. TORONTO RAPTORS

It was an early-December duel of great anticipation, as the Sixers hosted the reigning champs for the first time since Game 6 of the previous season's Eastern Conference Semifinals. With Kawhi Leonard gone, Toronto's emerging star Pascal Siakam would be Simmons' new defensive challenge. He spent five minutes guarding the Cameroonian high-flyer, per stats.nba.com, and kept him in check for two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Siakam had mustered a mere four points by halftime, by which point Simmons and the Sixers held a 15-point lead. The Sixers won the game, 110-104.

JANUARY 9, 2020 VS. BOSTON CELTICS

Simmons owned his individual matchups with fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum in each of the Sixers' first three meetings of the season with the Boston Celtics (all Sixers' wins). But in the Sixers' back-and-forth battle with the C's at The Center on Jan. 9, Simmons was especially excellent. According to stats.nba.com, Simmons held Tatum scoreless on 0-for-1 shooting in nearly seven minutes checking the Celtics' wing man. For the year, Tatum shot a combined 5-for-16 against Simmons in four games. 

JANUARY 20, 2020 VS. BROOKLYN NETS

Perhaps no game showcased Simmons' all-around talents better than the Sixers' 117-111 victory at Barclays Center on Jan. 20 (of note, the Sixers were without Joel Embiid that afternoon). Simmons pumped out 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. Defensively, he added five steals, two blocks, and eight deflections, while limiting potent Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie to five points in the six minutes he covered him. In crunch time, Simmons was especially impactful. He recorded two of his steals and one block in a decisive fourth quarter that saw the Nets commit 10 turnovers. 

JANUARY 25, 2020 VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

A spot in the NBA's primetime Saturday night national TV slot also brought with it for Simmons a primetime pairing, as he spent most of the evening going mano-a-mano with mentor LeBron James. Simmons guarded James for 7:20 in the Sixers' convincing 108-91 home win, a stretch during which James shot 2-for-9 overall and 1-for-6 from three. Simmons, meanwhile, turned in one of his top outings of the year. He manufactured 28 points, 10 boards, eight dimes, and four steals. 

FEBRUARY 11, 2020 VS. LA CLIPPERS

It might have been played in the heart of winter, but this game had all the feels of a late-spring playoff game. Intense crowd. Physical. Closely-contested, with 13 lead changes and five ties. And plenty of starpower, too, with Simmons leading the way. The Australian posted an impressive nine deflections and made Kawhi Leonard work throughout the evening, en route to logging a supreme 26-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double.

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter