NBA Coaches Anonymously Vote Ben Simmons as All-Defensive First Team
Criticizing Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons for being unwilling to shoot a jump shot is easy for many. But saying something negative about his defensive skillset might be hard. Coming out of LSU a few years back, Simmons wasn't known for being a suffocating defender, who could snatch the ball at a high rate.
Nowadays, though, teams have to do extra game planning around Simmons as he's taken seriously as an elite defender in the NBA. A recent discussion among an ESPN panel regarding the league's best defenders had many outraged at the fact that Simmons wasn't being considered an All-Defensive First Team candidate.
But an anonymous coaches poll from The Athletic can reassure many of Simmons' fans, letting them know that he is viewed as one of the league's best defenders in the eyes of NBA coaches. Out of 33 voters, Simmons received 34 total votes in favor of him being considered All-Defensive First-Team this season.
Although Simmons' name generated just the fifth-most amount of votes behind Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marcus Smart, and Kawhi Leonard, it's still enough to be considered one of the best the NBA has seen this season.
"Simmons edged Patrick Beverley for the second guard spot on the first team, with coaches pointing to Simmons' height, long arms, and quickness that make him a force for that huge Sixers team."
"Versatility, length — he can guard all five positions," said one coach who listed Simmons on his All-Defensive First Team ballot. "In this day and age of positionless basketball, you want that kind of defender on the floor."
Before he went down with a back injury in February, Simmons was leading the NBA in total steals (115) and steals-per-game (2.1). Despite missing 11 games this year, no other player was able to catch up to Simmons in that category.
Had the NBA season continued without a suspension in March, Simmons' absence could've affected his status as one of the league's best defenders. Where everything currently stands, however, the Sixers guard shouldn't have any issues picking up All-Defensive First-Team honors for the 2019-2020 NBA season.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_