Ben Simmons on Tuesday was named as a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team, a well-deserved accolade for a season in which the 24-year-old led the league in steals per game.
Among Simmons’ other statistical achievements were finishing third in deflections per game and first in defensive loose balls recovered. Opponents shot 42.3 percent on field goals defended by the exceptionally versatile Australian.
Brett Brown on July 21 described Simmons as a "a 6-foot-10, cat-like, disruptive thief."
The Celtics’ Marcus Smart was the other member of the First Team not named as a Defensive Player of the Year finalist. Joel Embiid was not selected to an All-Defensive team after being part of the Second Team last season. Simmons had 88 First Team votes, second behind Antetokounmpo (97).
Robert Covington was the Sixers’ last First Team All-Defense selection, in the 2017-18 season. Before that, the last Sixer on the All-Defensive First Team was Dikembe Mutombo in the 2000-01 campaign.
Simmons was sidelined for the playoff after having surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee and the Sixers missed his defense in their first-round series against the Celtics, a Boston sweep in which Jayson Tatum averaged 27.0 points. Tatum was one of several All-Stars Simmons defended well this year — he shot 5 for 16 when guarded by Simmons during their four regular-season matchups.