Clippers Coach Doc Rivers Believes Ben Simmons Doesn't Get Enough Credit
Before heading into the NBA's All-Star break, the Philadelphia 76ers had the opportunity to host the Los Angeles Clippers for the first time this year. While the Sixers have had a rough past couple of weeks, a win over a squad who's considered to be a Western Conference powerhouse could be great for the Sixers' confidence.
Despite Philly struggling on the road, everybody around the NBA knows they are a force at home, considering their impressive record while playing in Philly. Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers knew that on Tuesday ahead of his matchup against the Sixers.
As a team, the 76ers are solid, despite their inconsistency. Rivers, though, pointed out the performance of one specific Sixers player, who he believes is much better than spectators around the NBA might want to admit.
Sixers' versatile point guard Ben Simmons has been criticized many times throughout his two and a half year's worth of a career. While he excels in a handful of areas, his glaring deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball have overshadowed the elite areas of his game. And before Tuesday's matchup, Rivers pointed it out.
"I've seen him a few times," Rivers mentioned in regards to Simmons. "He's a hard guy to deal with every night. With his speed, pace, vision, and ability to get to the basket, he's very tough. You have to gameplan for him -- he's the key. [Simmons] gets everyone involved; he makes everybody on the team better."
Just a couple of hours later, Simmons proved the Clippers' head coach to be correct. Not only did he help contribute 26 points to the Sixers' 110 point total, but he did help himself to a triple-double as he collected 12 rebounds and ten assists as well. Offensively, Simmons was tough to guard on Tuesday night, but Rivers was more focused on Simmons' defensive skillset too, which he believes is an underrated feat for the 23-year-old.
"I think what people miss with him is his defense," Rivers claimed. "He is a terrific defender, and he doesn't get a lot of credit for it." Once again, Simmons was tough to get by on Tuesday. Offensively, the Clippers are a team that can score, but Simmons wasn't some pushover on Tuesday when guarding LA's best.
Simmons spent nearly ten minutes guarding Kawhi Leonard on Tuesday. While Leonard picked up 30 points overall on Tuesday, only 14 of those points came when Simmons was on him. Leonard went 6-for-12 against Ben Simmons on Tuesday night, and even during a handful of shots Leonard made, Simmons couldn't have played him any better.
As for the Clippers other star, Paul George, Simmons spent roughly three minutes guarding him as well. George struggled against the third-year guard during that time as he went 0-for-2 from the field, picking up one point after getting fouled.
Simmons' triple-double against the Clippers was the story of the night for good reason, of course. But his defense shouldn't be overshadowed by the statistics. This season, Simmons has been a stellar defender, and the opposition is undoubtedly taking notice of it.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_