Simmons Named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Forget, for a moment, the conversations about Rookie of the Year.

Right now, Ben Simmons is performing like one of the top players in the entire league.

In recognition of his efforts while helping further extend the 76ers’ current franchise-record tying 14-game winning streak, the 21-year old was named Monday the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Over a four-game unbeaten run that saw the Sixers knock off the Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Dallas Mavericks, Simmons averaged 18.5 points per game on an ultra-efficient 70.2 percent shooting.

During this same stretch, the versatile point man also posted 10.0 rebounds, 8.8 assists, and 2.5 steals per game, plus two double-doubles and one triple-double.

Adding to the impressive nature of Simmons’ recent play is that his spike in production has coincided with the absence of his All-Star teammate, Joel Embiid, who’s missed parts of the Sixers’ past seven games due to injury (concussion, orbital bone fracture).

Simmons, however, has made sure the Sixers haven’t skipped a beat.

Among the Australian’s noteworthy outings this past week was a 15-point, 12-rebound, 6-assist showing April 3rd against Brooklyn. Then, three days later, with control of third-place in the Eastern Conference up for grabs in a home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he came through with a performance to remember.

Squaring off against his megastar mentor LeBron James, Simmons spun together a dazzling, dynamic line highlighted by 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 13 assists.

Only one other player has reached those same numbers in a Sixers uniform. He wore no. 13, and his name is Wilt Chamberlain.

Simmons, from the start of the season until this, its final week, has proven to be that rare and that special of a talent, displaying an uncanny set of skills for someone of 6-foot-10 height. 

Dating back to October, he‘s claimed three Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors, and, in just about every possible way, has lived up to the hype he brought with him to the NBA.

“It’s very enjoyable,” Simmons said Sunday, while reflecting on his first professional campaign. “It’s also better when you’re winning.”

And when it comes to the Sixers’ dramatic turnaround, there can be no overstating the 2016 no. 1 pick’s impact. 

As of Monday, Simmons ranked 12th in the NBA in field goal percentage (54.4), 18th in rebounding (8.1), fourth in assists (8.2), seventh in steals (1.7), second in defensive win shares (4.9, per basketball-reference.com), and 18th in overall win shares (9.2, per basketball-reference.com).

Rare have the moments been this season in which Simmons has looked like a rookie. That he even did enough to be  in the running for Monday’s award, one typically earmarked for perennial All-Stars and All-League candidates, is further proof that the LSU product has put himself in a different kind of class. 

Before Simmons went out and dropped 16 points, 7 boards, 9 dimes, and 4 steals in Sunday’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks, which not only gave the Sixers 50 wins for the season, but guaranteed home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs as well, Brett Brown was asked about the evolution of his budding star, to whom the keys to the Sixers were given at the outset of the year.

“Where do I begin?,” said Brown. “Let’s start with the poise, and the unflappable type of mindset that he has, and inner peace and inner confidence that he has that doesn’t let him get rattled or distracted much. Let’s talk about the continued growth of the intellectual side of what is a point guard...he’s grown tremendously on that side of the position as well. And then, there’s just how good he is. Some of the things he does athletically - speed, vision, presence - he is for real. He really is for real. He has exceeded for me all of the expectations I’ve had for him.”

And in the waning days of the regular season, Simmons has continued to outdo himself, stepping over bars that have always been set at high heights.