Ben Simmons wanted Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. Unfortunately, two major injuries likely played a part in his chances of becoming that as he missed a notable chunk of time due to a lower-back impingement and a dislocated kneecap.
This year, Simmons hasn't lost a step on that side of the ball. As the 2020-2021 NBA season progresses, the young versatile guard continues to show the basketball world exactly why he was named NBA All-Defensive in 2020.
But this year, All-Defensive isn't good enough for him. Simmons wants validation of being the best defender in the NBA. And 26 games into the regular season, he feels he's on the right path to earning the award he's eyed up for the last couple of years.
"I take pride in guarding the best player on the floor every night," the veteran guard said on Thursday night following a loss against the Portland Trail Blazers. "It's not a one-off thing. If you watch me, I'm typically guarding the best player." Over the last two seasons, Simmons has welcomed the challenge of guarding every team's best offensive player. And more often than not, he gets the job done.
"I love the fact that my teammates can look at me and tell me, 'You got to go out and lock this guy up,'" he continued. "There are nights that guys go off, and that's gonna happen, but most of the time, I feel like I'm doing a good job and making the right plays. You know, I feel like I'm the best defender in the NBA."
As long as he can stay healthy throughout the rest of the season, Simmons will undoubtedly be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Between the current season and the last, he's proven to be an excellent defender who's consistent every matchup. So, there isn't much that can slow him down at this point.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_