Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons’ best defensive games

Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

What do R.J. Barrett, Pascal Siakam, Markelle Fultz, Russell Westbrook, the entire Pacers’ team, De’Aaron Fox, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic all have in common? You guessed it, they all have been shut down by the NBA’s most versatile defender, Ben Simmons. Speed demons like Fox, elite shooters like Lillard, crafty creators like Doncic, and lengthy forwards like Siakam all struggle against Ben.

Ben not only shuts down his man, but also defends effectively in a variety of ways. Simmons can disrupt the passing lanes, slide his feet quickly, contest 3-pointers, provide help defense, and read-contest drives.

The Philadelphia 76ers have one of the NBA’s top two-way forces in Ben Simmons.

While the defensive stats look great for Ben, I also watched each shot defended by Ben by each player and broke down what makes Simmons such an elite defender on any offensive player. The stats for each player shown below are while guarded by Simmons in that game. Let’s get started!

Dec. 26, Sixers vs. Knicks — R.J. Barrett

Barrett Stats – 6:28 mins | 4 pts | 1-8  FG | 2-2 FT | 0 ast | 2 TO

Simmons Stats – 1 stl | 2 blk

Poor R.J. Barrett. Simmons was extremely active in this game against Barrett, particularly by shutting down drives and closing out hard on 3-point shots. Ben blocked one of Barrett’s 3s and nearly blocked another two or three. R.J. is probably still seeing Ben sprinting at him in his nightmares.

Dec. 29, Sixers vs. Raptors — Pascal Siakam

Siakam Stats – 7:02 mins | 7 pts |  3-11 FG |  0-0 FT | 0 ast | 1 TO

Simmons Stats – 1 stl | 1 blk

Siakam had some success against other Sixers’ defenders but couldn’t do much against Simmons. Six of Siakam’s field goal attempts against Simmons were 3s, most of which were Siakam settling instead of trying to attack the rim. Siakam had very little success the few times he tried to drive on Simmons as well. Ben is one of the few defenders in the NBA who has both the size and speed to cover Siakam, and it showed in this game.

Dec. 31, Sixers vs. Magic — Markelle Fultz

Fultz Stats – 4:54 mins | 3 pts | 1-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 ast | 1 TO

Simmons Stats – 2 stl | 0 blk

Simmons was not interested in letting Fultz show up his old team. Being a poor 3-point shooter is a death sentence against Simmons, who went under almost every screen against Fultz. When Simmons has the luxury to go under screens, opposing ballhandlers have no chance to get to the rim. Fultz was forced to settle for mostly jumpers against Simmons, which is a win for the defense every time. Even when Simmons went over screens, Fultz couldn’t create much separation.

Jan. 6, Sixers vs. Wizards — Russell Westbrook

Westbrook Stats – 7:21 mins | 5 pts | 2-9 FG |  0-2 FT | 6 ast | 3 TO

Simmons Stats – 2 stl | 0 blk

Westbrook was very aggressive when anyone other than Simmons guarded him, a recurring theme with all players on this list. Pretty much every possession with Simmons as the primary defender ended with Westbrook settling for a long 2 or 3 off the dribble, shots the defense loves to see. This was also the game Beal scored 59 points (not guarded by Simmons much), so any Westbrook shot was a great sight for Sixers fans.

Jan. 31, Sixers vs. Pacers

Primary matchup: Zone

Simmons Stats – 4 stl | 2 blk

Simmons did not match up with one Pacer player for a majority of the game, but Simmons was instrumental in the stifling zone played in the fourth-quarter comeback. Along with Matisse Thybulle, Simmons was very active and his length bothered the Pacers at the top of the 2-3 zone. Also, without Embiid in the lineup, Simmons added some much-needed rim protection before the team went to zone.

Feb. 9, Sixers vs. Kings — De’Aaron Fox

Fox Stats – 4:40 mins | 5 pts | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 ast | 0 TO

Simmons Stats – 1 stl | 0 blk

Man, Fox is really good. His ability to get anywhere off the dribble is elite. He blew by every defender on the Sixers not named Ben Simmons or Matisse Thybulle, who actually played some pretty good defense on Fox as well. Simmons is one of the few defenders in the NBA with the quickness to keep up with Fox. Still, Fox was able to beat Simmons off the dribble occasionally, although Simmons’ length still bothered Fox even when he beat him.

Feb. 11, Sixers vs. Trail Blazers — Damian Lillard

Lillard Stats – 8:09 mins | 10 pts | 3-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 ast | 1 TO

Simmons Stats – 1 stl | 1 blk

Portland won this game in the clutch, but Simmons made sure it had nothing to do with Dame Time. With his combination of ballhandling and deep range, Lillard will always be able to get shots off. Simmons did a great job keep Lillard out of the paint while contesting most of Lillard’s jumpers with his length. As a bonus, Simmons played some elite fastbreak defense in this game.

Feb. 25, Sixers vs. Mavericks — Luka Doncic

Doncic Stats – 7:28 mins | 6 pts | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 ast | 4 TO

Simmons Stats – 2 stl | 1 blk

Simmons was an absolute terror on the defensive end in this game. Luka is a top-ten offensive player in the league who typically creates in the pick-and-roll or off meandering drives,  but Simmons stayed disciplined and hounded Doncic all over the court. Simmons also had some great moments as an off-ball defender, getting steals and protecting the paint. The first half against the Mavs was arguably Simmons’ most dominant defensive half in his career given his primary matchup.

Three key Ben Simmons takeaways

  1. Simmons does an elite job staying active on the defensive end without fouling much or bailing out the offensive player.
  2. Simmons’ combination of strength and quickness means that there is no bad matchup for him in the NBA.
  3. Any time a star player is not guarded by Simmons, that player is much more active and aggressive on the offensive end.

Next. The biggest mistake the Sixers can make. dark