Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons has already accomplished a lot in his short NBA career. The 24-year-old former number one overall pick is a three-time All-Star, won the 2017-2018 Rookie of the Year award, and could add a Defensive Player of the Year award to his resumé this season.
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For some though, much of those accolades mean little when evaluating Simmons’ rank with the elite players in the Association. For the lefty to get over the hump and attempt to jump a tier into a more selective group of players, Simmons needs to step it up this spring in the upcoming NBA playoffs.
Bleacher Report NBA Writer Dan Favale had the Australian among his group of five “NBA Stars with the Most to Prove in the Playoffs”, joining Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker in the Eastern Conference, and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers and Kristaps Porzingis of the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference.
‘Simmons Must Be Held to a Standard Similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo’
When discussing why he placed Simmons on the list, Favale first points out that number 25 has already established himself as a star, due largely to his “brilliant” playmaking and defense.
“No one else in the league pairs the scope of his assignments with his effectiveness. He is capable of removing a star from the game plan,” Favale writes.
However, the author argues that the time has come for Simmons to be held to a higher standard when it comes to the postseason and used the two-time defending NBA MVP as an example.
“Simmons must be held to a standard similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo. He doesn’t need to be a different player, just a better, less-solvable version of the one he’s already become,” Favale writes.
With 273 regular season NBA games under his belt – plus 22 more in the playoffs – everybody knows that three-point shooting, and the jump shot in general, are not part of Simmons’ game. What Simmons needs to do is carry over the ways he’s helped the team get to its probable top seed this year deep into the playoffs.
“How well he plays in the postseason will go a long way toward determining whether this partnership deserves more time to marinate or is closer to its last gasp,” Favale writes.
Simmons’ Best Playoff Numbers Came in Postseason Debut in 2018
Though Simmons missed all of the brief, first-round, four-game sweep against the Boston Celtics last season with a knee injury, he still has the 22 career playoff games from his first two campaigns. Based on numbers alone, many could call Simmons’ playoff career thus far a success.
After all, he’s posted averages of 15 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 36.0 minutes per game across the nearly two dozen contests. A deeper dive shows a slight decline in output over the four series – two coming in 2018 and two in 2019.
In 2018, as the three seed, the Sixers took out the sixth-seeded Miami Heat in five games behind a terrific series from Simmons. Not only did the point guard nearly average a triple-double with 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, and nine assists, but he chipped in an eye-popping 2.4 steals per contest as well. Even more impressive, the first two games of the series were played without Joel Embiid.
The Eastern Conference Semifinals against the second-seeded Celtics were a slightly different story, as his scoring, rebounding and assist numbers all dropped. The Sixers were ousted in five games.
In 2019, on a stacked team that featured a then-newly-acquired Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, as well as Simmons and Embiid, the third-seeded Sixers again had little trouble with their first round opponent, the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets. With the series knotted at 1-1 and Embiid unable to play in a pivotal game three, Simmons went a dynamite 11-for-13 from the field for a game-high 31 points, while collecting nine assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals to lead Philly to the win. The 76ers won the series in five games.
Following the elation of that victory, Simmons’ last taste of the postseason in the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals ended in heartbreak, and of course, one of the most dramatic game seven finishes in NBA history.
Simmons’ line in the biggest game of his life was an underwhelming 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists with five turnovers. After missing the embarrassing 2020 playoff sweep against Boston, the road to redemption for Simmons begins in less than two weeks.
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