The Sixers had one player crack the All-NBA roster.
The Philadelphia 76ers’ 2019-20 season was by and large a disappointment. Not much went right. With that said, individual performances can often transcend team performances. And that was the case for Ben Simmons, who spearheaded a reliable two-way attack — even without personnel tailored to his skill set.
This was a remarkably strong third season for Simmons, and one that deserves more credit from the general population. He averaged 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 2.1 steals while shooting a career-high 58 percent from the field. He also made his second consecutive All-Star appearance.
In the end, you could argue Simmons was the Sixers’ best overall performer this season. While he’s not the Sixers’ best player — that title is still reserved for Joel Embiid — the better individual season probably belonged to Simmons. It would appear the award voters felt similarly.
Simmons was named to the third team All-NBA on Wednesday, joining Jayson Tatum, Russell Westbrook, Rudy Gobert, and Jimmy Butler. There were notable exclusions — Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, and Embiid chief among them — but even so, Simmons’ spot was well deserved.
In addition to his prolific distribution skills and his efficient interior scoring, Simmons emerged as one of the best defenders in basketball. He finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting. It’s rare for someone to carry the mantle Simmons did on both sides of the ball. He spent more time defending All-Stars than anyone else, and he also generated more open looks for teammates than anyone else. He is a special and diverse talent, who has proven himself capable of leading a team on both sides.
A long and fruitful partnership awaits Ben Simmons and the Sixers. It’s up to the front office to construct a better roster and to find a coach who can hold Simmons accountable. There’s so much room for Simmons to grow. He has infinite potential if his aggressiveness ramps up and his jump shot starts to come around. A coach who can grill him without losing him would greatly benefit everyone involved.
This is not Simmons’ last inclusion in the All-NBA discussion. You can etch that prediction in stone. He’s 24 years old, he has made two All-Star appearances, and he now has both All-NBA and All-Defense credits to his name. For someone who is the object of so much criticism in the basketball community, Simmons sure does get the award recognition of a superstar-type player.