With each passing game, Ben Simmons continues to cement his case to make NBA All-Defensive First Team. Our Andrew Patton recently did a statistical exploration of how dominant a defender Simmons has been this season, but the latest bit of evidence came in the Sixers’ 108-91 win over LeBron James and the Lakers Saturday night.
Simmons has won four straight games against LeBron, and it certainly helps that he’s one of the few people in the league capable of matching James’ rare combination of size, speed, and strength. While everyone loved seeing Matisse Thybulle play the thief against LeBron, it was Simmons who served as LeBron’s primary defender. Courtesy of the Stats.NBA.com tracking page (which admittedly, isn’t a perfect measure), Simmons guarded LeBron 64.8 percent of the time both players were on the court.
During those minutes, LeBron shot just 2-of-9 from the field (1-of-6 from 3), tallying two assists against two turnovers. The Lakers scored just 17 points as a team across approximately 26 possessions, with LeBron accounting for five of those points. As Brett Brown said after the game, “defensively, you look at the disturbance that Matisse Thybulle and Ben caused with nine cumulative forced turnovers. He [Simmons] was really special tonight on a very talented court.”
Part of his success comes from LeBron simply respecting Ben’s ability on that end of the court. Here, we see James isolated against Simmons, but opting not to attack, instead settling for a contested stepback 3.
Later, many opponents would be sent flying when receiving the Howitzer missile known as LeBron’s shoulder, but Simmons barely seems affected, possibly throwing James off his normal rhythm and altering the finish.
Of course, sometimes it just helps to be 6-foot-10 and snatch something out of the air.
And we’ve seen countless times how much ground Ben can cover on the court.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Simmons’ defensive performance Saturday night? He has had far more dominant outings on that side of the ball. But even in what you might consider a ho-hum defensive effort, Ben effectively slowed down one of the best players of all time, a man who is still playing some of the best ball in the NBA at age 35. As LeBron himself mentioned after the game, it’s going to be amazing watching Simmons do these things for years to come.