Philadelphia 76ers "facilitator" Ben Simmons got off to a bit of a lukewarm start offensively to start the year. Through his first 14 games, the two-time All-Star averaged just 12 points-per-game. It wasn't until the 15th game of the season until Simmons finally collected 20 points in a single matchup.
Fortunately for the Sixers, they have Joel Embiid headlining the offense and doing a spectacular job at it. Then, there's Tobias Harris, who is currently in the midst of a career-year offensively as well. While Simmons' playmaking skills and defensive skillset have been valuable all season long, his lack of scoring remained a concern.
Lately, that hasn't been an issue. Since the start of February, Simmons appeared in six games for Philly. In an average of 35 minutes on the floor, the veteran guard has put up 21 points-per-game. On Monday night against the Utah Jazz with Joel Embiid out of the lineup, Simmons played the best game of his career on the offensive end as he accounted for 42 points in 38 minutes of action.
It was clear that Simmons had an entirely different mentality from the jump as he played extremely aggressively from the start of the game. In the first quarter alone, Simmons had 19 points, shooting perfectly from the field and the free-throw line.
Oftentimes, Simmons' hot starts might simmer down a bit as the game goes on, but the fourth-year star didn't slow down at all. Despite taking on a loss to the Jazz, Simmons' Sixers were proud to see him score 40-plus points against the NBA's hottest team. And after the game, the 24-year-old All-Star credited his new mentality for his recent progress on the offensive side of the game.
"I've honestly just been working on my mentality a lot," Simmons explained. "It's not easy to change the way you play or do certain things in the game that comes naturally to certain people. I feel like I'm figuring it out. Obviously, my scoring's been a lot higher in the last six games. So, as long as I can keep doing that, staying locked in and working on my mental. . . I think it's scary."
Simmons can truly do it all outside of consistently utilizing his jump shot, which is still a work in progress. However, it seems he had a mental block to start the season. At this point, he's working on eliminating the thoughts that hold him back, and it's clearly beginning to pay off.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_