One of the most overly criticized NBA players is Ben Simmons. This is because of his limitations on the offensive end. Ben has been criticized about his lack of ability to make, or even attempt an NBA jump shot. Simmons hasn’t taken the next big step on the offensive end. However, he has made great improvements on the defensive end this season. In this article, we are going to discuss how much Ben Simmons has improved as a defender. We are also going to discuss how good of a defender Ben Simmons is and if he is a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate.
Ben Simmons this season has been putting up very impressive defensive numbers. He is the league leader in steals with 2.1 steals per game. Last year he averaged 1.4 steals per game. He also averages the 2nd most deflections in the NBA with 4 deflections a game. Last year he was 21st in the league for deflections per game with 2.7. Simmons is among the top of the league in steals and deflections a game. This is due to his incredible reaction speed, his large wingspan and ability to be in the passing lanes.
We know Simmons is an elite perimeter defender due to his ability to get steals and deflections, but how does Ben Simmons matchup when he has to guard the best scorers in the league. Players like Trae Young, Lebron James, Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Demar DeRozan have all been held to under 35% field goal shooting when being guarded by Ben Simmons this season. He’s held Trae Young to 18% from the field (2/11), Lebron James to 22% from the field (2/9), Pascal Siakam to 26% from the field (5/19), Jayson Tatum to 27% from the field (4/15), Russell Westbrook to 30% from the field (4/13), James Harden to 33% from the field (3/9), and Demar DeRozan to 30% from the field (3/10).
There are lots of advanced statistics to support Ben Simmons amazing defensive play this season. Ben Simmons places very high among the league in defensive rating. Defensive rating is a tool used to measure a player’s efficiency at preventing the opposing team from scoring. Ben Simmons places 14th in defensive rating, and last year Simmons placed 45th in defensive rating. Ben Simmons is also among the league leaders in defensive win shares. Defensive win shares are a metric used to measure the number of wins a player produces for his team, due to their defensive play. Ben Simmons places 4th in the league in defensive win shares. Ben Simmons ranked 21st in the league in defensive win shares last season.
Now that we have viewed Ben Simmons as an individual defender, how good of a team defender is Simmons and how much does his defensive play help his team? As a team, the Philadelphia 76ers are 4th in defensive points per game and as a team they rank top 10 in blocks and steals. The 76ers also place 6th as a team for defensive rating. Ben Simmons also is a key go to defender for the 76ers. He guards the opposing teams 1st option for 26% of defensive possessions and he ranks in the top 10 for covering opposing team’s primary scorer.
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Ben Simmons isn’t just a one dimensional defender. He is one of the most versatile defenders in the league. With his 6″10 frame, he has the size and length of a big, combined with the speed and agility of a guard. He is a 6″10 player who can defend the perimeter at an elite level. Simmons can legitimately guard any player in the NBA, regardless of position. Ben ranks 3rd in the league in versatility rating, which measures how many different positions a player can defend.
Work ethic and willingness to improve is another big factor in defensive development. A big reason he has improved so much defensively this quickly, has been his dedication to improving his play on the defensive end of the ball. In the 2019 NBA playoffs, Simmons had the task of guarding Kawhi Leonard in the 2nd round of the playoffs. After Kawhi hit his iconic series ending shot against the 76ers, Simmons took more effort into improving his defensive play. Simmons was asked if guarding Leonard was going to have a lasting effect on him. He responded with “I think he kind of set the tone for me defensively… I just tried to carry that energy and consistency to now.”
This moment has awoken the defensive beast that is Ben Simmons.
Ben Simmons entered the season with the goal of winning defensive player of the year. Some people doubted he could come even close to that goal. Now he’s a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate.
Ben Simmons has taken big strides on the defensive end this season and has established himself as an elite defender. He brings great effort and hustle on the defensive end and is becoming more of a defensive leader. Ben Simmons is maturing on and off the court. He has great defensive instincts, mixed with footspeed and length. He has all the tools to win a defensive player of the year award in the future. Ben Simmons has limitations on the offensive side of the ball. He makes up for it with his defensive play. With his defense he will be a very valuable player for many years to come.