Spotlight | East's Top Rookie in January, Simmons Not Slowing Down

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

CAMDEN - Throughout the month of January, whether stateside or overseas, with a full-strength roster or one that was short-handed, Ben Simmons provided frequent reminders of his dynamic talent, and ability to positively to influence the 76ers’ fortunes.

More than that, as the Australian heads into the heart of the second half of a promising, eye-opening debut campaign, he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

Thursday afternoon, Simmons’ recent high level of play was recognized, as he was named the KIA NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for January.

In 12 appearances during the previous month, the Sixers’ starting point man averaged 17.1 points and 6.7 assists per game, top marks for rookies hailing from the East. He accounted for 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game as well, all while guiding his club to a 7-5 record. His 9.9 January net rating was his highest to-date for any month.

Particularly noteworthy about Simmons’ January efforts was how the 21-year old closed the month, doing so by stringing together what has so far been one of the strongest stretches of his young career. He’s topped the 20-point plateau three times in his last four games, a spurt that was immediately preceded by a memorable triple-double in the Sixers’ January 24th win over the Chicago Bulls.

That night, Simmons cranked out 19 points, 17 rebounds, and 14 assists, numbers that no rookie in franchise history had ever previously achieved in a single game. Heck, only one other person to ever wear a Sixers uniform has ever hit those splits, and his name is Wilt Chamberlain.

“I think he’s been steady,” said Brett Brown, when asked earlier this week Simmons’ late-January flurry. “I’m playing him quite a few minutes, and I’m always mindful of that, but he’s such a great athlete, and I think that how he’s holding himself up physically has been impressive.”

Simmons has indeed gotten extensive reps this season. His 35.1 minutes per game average ranks 16th among all NBA players.

Not only has Simmons managed to handle the workload, he's remained a multi-faceted, impactful force at a premium position.

Wednesday in Brooklyn, before unleashing a 24-point outing against the Nets, Simmons was asked if he expected his first season to be this dominant.

“Yes,” was Simmons’ reply, succinct, confident, and self-fulfilling.

“I’m here for a reason, and obviously Philly chose me for a reason,” said the 2016 No. 1 pick, who was out all of 2016-2017 due to injury. “I spoke to Brett a lot when I was hurt, and he wanted me to run the team and be the point guard. I know he trusts me, has faith in me. For myself, I definitely trust and believe in myself.”

His businesslike, assertive on-court demeanor has reflected as much.

As of Thursday, Simmons ranked fifth in the NBA in assists per game (7.3), and ninth in steals per game (1.8). He’s now been tabbed Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month twice, also having claimed the prize for games played in October and November.

In just a few short weeks, Simmons will add another item to his stellar rookie resume, when he represents the Sixers at All-Star Weekend, as part of the Mtn Dew Kickstarter Rising Stars Challenge.