When Simmons guards Leonard in this series, Kawhi is 0-for-9 from trey way and turned the ball over twice.
Ben Simmons catches a lot of flack for his inability/unwillingness to shoot the basketball. Today’s NBA superstars are basically built in the same mold; ball-controlling scoring machines who rack up huge numbers and high volumes of shots via the trey ball.
Simmons has risen to All-Star status by using his unique size, ball handling ability, court vision, strength, and defensive advantages as a 6-foot-10 point guard.
His offensive work area is no more than 12-feet and in. Kind of like an old school center in Magic Johnson’s body. Simmons is the freak of nature fortunate enough to have coaches that recognized his unique drip, left alone and let him rock out. With a brilliance that’s diametric to the current NBA culture, Simmons doesn’t need to hoist up threes to exemplify a royal aptitude.
LeBron James has already anointed him as “Young King,”, despite the fact that he’s only hoisted 17 threes in his two years in the NBA. Shot deficiencies aside, Simmons’ swiss-army knife ability has led to impressive career averages of 16.4 points, 7.9 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game.
His defensive efforts against Kawhi Leonard in a Game 2 Eastern Conference semifinals win further highlighted his value as a defensive stopper.
In Game 1 against Toronto, Kawhi destroyed Philly, but Brett Brown hadn’t figured out that Simmons was capable of slowing Leonard down. By Game 2, the numbers told the story. Leonard has drained 17 of his 22 attempted shots when being guarded by Sixers other than Simmons. When Simmons is on Leonard, he’s only managed to drain 12 of 25 shots and most importantly, he’s 0-for-9 from trey way with two turnovers. Big Ben gets to try and do it again tonight in Game 3 at home.
Simmons can get his numbers when he’s motivated to assume that responsibility. It’s all about what the moment calls for. The career playoff high 32 points he scored in response to Brooklyn Nets fans trolling him by putting up missing posters, was an inspiration to any Simmons admirer searching for a shooting pulse from the multi-faceted guard.
Outside the Barclays Center, there was a "missing" poster mocking Ben Simmons' jump shot. Inside the Barclays Center, there was Ben Simmons posting a playoff career-high 31 points! https://t.co/Z2f1AkueU1 #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/CwT3XKz8kf
— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) April 19, 2019
Simmons is comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t feel pressure to play outside of his zone or force things. The criticism about his offensive game is NBA fan greed and an infatuation with hollow numbers.
With Joel Embiid limited, the Sixers leaned on Jimmy Butler to hit big buckets and Ben Simmons to defend Kawhi Leonard.
— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) May 1, 2019
During the last series against the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons had to guard their best player in D’Angelo Russel. The Nets’ star averaged about 19 points-per-game in just under 30 minutes. His field goal percentage took a dive from 41.9-percent in the regular season, to 34.5-percent in the playoffs.
The Sixers did it with Dee-fence
🏀Lowest Raptors FG% in a Home game in 2 years (36.3)
🏀Lowest Raptors pt total at home this season (89) pic.twitter.com/xdeGbpYGEY
— 𝐃𝐚𝐧 𝐑𝐨𝐜𝐡𝐞 (@RochesRWinners) April 30, 2019
Simmons is a walking example of how defensive prowess and a well-rounded offensive game can command superstar recognition — especially when your squad is a title contender. GM Elton Brand’s genius is rearing its head in these playoffs. Rather than force Simmons to play outside of himself, Brand went and got Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to help with the scoring.
DEFENSE STILL WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Throughout a playoff run, championship teams have to find ways of reinventing themselves in order to deal with the various styles that they encounter in each round. Specific roles have to be defined in order for there to be continuity
There are very few NBA teams that have a defense-first mentality anymore, but if Philly has the talent to execute that style of play — and Brett Brown is willing to let Simmons do what he does best (optics be damned) — then it could open doors to a serious shot at the title.