Ben Simmons was named to the All-Defensive First Team this season, and now he's added even more to his resume. Simmons has also made the All-NBA Third Team, making it the first All-NBA nod of his three-year career.
2019-20 All-NBA teams:— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 16, 2020
First: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Anthony Davis, James Harden
Second: Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic, Chris Paul, Pascal Siakam
Third: Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, Russell Westbrook
His Philadelphia 76ers teammate Joel Embiid was left off the squads this year. He was around All-NBA level when he was available (even if he wasn’t at his best in terms of consistent intensity), but he only played in 51 games and likely suffered because of it. Rudy Gobert putting together a quality season and appearing in 68 games is probably what swayed voters.
My main issues with these teams are that Pascal Siakam made the Second Team (he certainly shouldn’t have been above Jayson Tatum), and Russell Westbrook made the cut over Kyle Lowry and Khris Middleton, who is the bigger snub. This is also just a result of the poor, position-based voting system, though. Middleton actually had more total points (82) than both Simmons (61) and Westbrook (56), but was hurt by votes placing him as a forward rather than a guard.
Simmons absolutely deserved to make the team. He averaged 16.4 points per game on a career-high 60.2 True Shooting Percentage, to go along with 7.8 rebounds and 8 assists. As the season progressed, Simmons’ aggressiveness increased. He improved his screening and play as a roll man, and showed more assertiveness to embrace contact, draw fouls, and get to the rim later in the season.
Over 19 games before he aggravated his back injury against Milwaukee on February 22, Simmons had an excellent stretch with 21.3 points (61.6 percent shooting), 9.4 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 2.2 steals a night. He also upped his free throw rate in this span to 6.8 attempts per game, making 67.4 percent.
Ben Simmons had his best game of the season (and maybe of his career) on January 20 against the Nets.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) May 15, 2020
34 points (12/14 FG, 10/14 FT), 12 rebounds, 12 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks. Aggressive attacking the rim, worked really well as a roll man, and played great defense. pic.twitter.com/uBwa1zNS4N
And, of course, Simmons took a big step forward at the other end of the floor to become an elite defender. He led the NBA with 2.1 steals per game and ranked 3rd in deflections at 3.9 per game. With his elevated intensity and sharpened engagement off the ball, combined with his phenomenal versatility to effectively switch across every position, he was a force on defense.
Some highlights from Ben Simmons' very well deserved All-Defensive First Team season.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) September 9, 2020
He has elite versatility to switch across all positions, guards top opponents at a high level, and was more disruptive than ever off the ball (led the NBA in steals at 2.1 per game). pic.twitter.com/5t9NdZfDwA
(If you want to look back at Simmons’ overall performance, I wrote about all of the main ways he developed this season in far more detail back in February).
Simmons has faced some challenges this year, what with his back injury and knee surgery that ruled him out of the playoffs, but he was clearly an improved player when he was available. This can be true even without more growth as a shooter. He did incredibly well to earn his second straight All-Star nod, and elevate himself to All-NBA and All-Defensive level for the first time.
One final note is that Simmons has also made himself some extra money. Because he made the All-NBA Third Team, his supermax extension (which is set to begin next season) will start at 28 percent of the salary cap rather than 25 percent.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.