Sixers Lead

Make No Mistake: Ben Simmons Is an All-Star

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The 22-year old was snubbed once– but there’s no way it should happen again.

There are many things that factor into being an all-star. You have to be likable, display some level of flare on the court and, of course, have exceptional talent.

Most All-Stars possess any combination of the two. The lucky ones—the all-time greats if you will—possess all three. Based off of this criteria alone, Ben Simmons should be an All-Star. In fact, he deserved it last year.

He’s Likable and Talented

Simmons finished fourth in the fan vote for Eastern Conference backcourt. He finished last season with 12 triple-doubles– the second-highest total for a rookie in NBA history. With the generational talent already in the bag, Simmons’s flare is evident both on:

and off the court.

By no means is Simmons an all-time great yet. He has less than 150 games under his belt and has yet to make a conference finals appearance, let alone a three-pointer. Only time will tell whether he deserves mentioning in the same breath as the Magic’s and Isiah’s of the world. Still, it would be foolish to ignore the obvious: this kid is special.

Before going any further, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, Simmons’ range doesn’t extend past 10 feet and his game can be neutralized in the playoffs. If you’re one of the select few who truly believe this precludes him from being an all-star then by all means trust your gut. Odds are nothing will change your mind. But if for some reason you’re open to a differing opinion, consider this: why haven’t opponents — except the Celtics — been able to expose him? Probably because it’s easier said than done.

Blessed with great handles, awareness and a 6’10” frame, Simmons is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court. Only six players  — five of whom are former MVP’s — in the three-point era have averaged 15+ points, 8+ rebounds and 8+ assists: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons. That’s pretty elite company if you ask me.

Numbers Never Lie

While he might not score like all-star starters Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving, Simmons happens to be one of the few players who can still affect the game without having to put the ball in the basket. Through 49 games, his 403 assists is the most in the Eastern Conference, dwarfing that of Kyrie (298) and Kemba (271). Even if we factored in two-point scoring, only Eric Bledsoe scores mores efficiently from within the arc, per ESPN.

For a moment, let’s put assist numbers aside. Kyrie and Kemba are scoring guards. Their per-game assist numbers —6.9 and 5.2 respectively— are ancillary (even though Simmons’s averages 8.2). Regardless of what they bring offensively, defense still matters in today’s NBA. Luckily, Simmons’ reputation as a premiere two-way player only strengthens his all-star bid. The Aussie wunderkind’s 2.8 defensive plus/minus ranks first among starting point guards in the East and 20th in the NBA. To put that into perspective, Irving’s .6 defensive plus/minus ranks a respectable third among the East’s starting point guards while Walker’s -1.3 puts him at ninth.

If you factor in defensive win shares (DWS), or an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense, the gap becomes even more glaring especially considering the 22-year old’s ability to “guard the 1-5.” Simmons and Bledsoe led all Eastern Conference point guards with 2.3 DWS while Kyrie and Kemba ranked third (2.1) and sixth (1.6) respectively.

2018 Snub

For those still not convinced, let’s not forget that the NBA owes him. Eastern Conference coaches selected Heat point guard Goran Dragic to replace an injured Kevin Love in last year’s all-star game. Yes, you read that right. Goran. Dragic. With all due respect to The Dragon, there is no way that he should’ve gotten the call over over Ben. At the time, Simmons was outpacing Dragic in nearly every statistical category. It should’ve been a no-brainer.

This obviously didn’t sit well with Simmons, as he would go on to average a near triple-double against Dragic’s Heat in his first playoff appearance. The Sixers won in five despite being without Joel Embiid for the first two games. Last time I checked, all-stars shouldn’t get outplayed by rookies.

With the NBA already on the wrong side of history, they have no room for error. There’s only three guards in the East (Kyrie, Kemba and Washington’s Bradley Beal) playing better than Simmons. The ball is now in your court, Eastern Conference coaches. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

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