PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Before the 2019-20 season tipped off, Ben Simmons set goals for himself — win a championship and Defensive Player of the Year. Now, while it is still unclear if the Sixers have the roster to compete for a title, Simmons’ early-season defense has him trending toward being an all-league defender.
Although Simmons missed two games, according to NBA.com as of Dec. 3, he leads the NBA in steals (46) and is second in steals per game (2.4). He is also second in loose balls recovered (42), third in loose balls recovered per game (2.2), second in total deflections (77) and third in deflections per game (4.0).
Last year, he was 21st in deflections per game (2.7).
Following Monday’s win over the Utah Jazz, Simmons also became the first player this season to record five 4-steal games.
“I love being able to get steals and make guys turn the ball over. I have a sense of pride in that,” Simmons said.
The point guard is making it clear that he is always up to challenge himself on the defensive end of the floor.
“I just love guarding great players. I take that challenge upon myself, I really don’t mind who I’m put on. It’s always going to be a challenge and I enjoy it,” Simmons said.
Even Head Coach Brett Brown is seeing the impressive strides his point guard has made on defense. While he still sees ways Simmons can improve offensively, he likes how he has accepted the challenge on defense.
“He’s ticking the box on the all-defensive team that I have challenged him on. To me it’s a no-brainer,” Brown said.
The comments come after Simmons dazzled everyone who watched him over the last few games, which saw the point guard stifle opposing offenses with 14 steals in his last five games. This includes three steals coming within the last 13 seconds of the Sixers’ 119-116 win over Indiana last Saturday.
So far this season, we have seen Simmons cover the likes of Damian Lillard, Trae Young, Jimmy Butler, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and even Karl Anthony-Towns.
This list of names shows that the issue of Simmons being limited to just 1s to 3s is a thing of the past, and the 6-foot-10 point guard is not afraid to pick up any player on the opposing team, regardless of size.
If this trend continues for Simmons, he may be in the running to become the first Sixer to win Defensive Player of the Year honors since Dikembe Mutombo in the 2000-2001 season. He would also be the first point guard to win the award since Gary Payton in 1996.