Philadelphia 76ers veteran guard Ben Simmons has been on a mission to become the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year for the last couple of seasons. While he didn't collect the nod last season, Simmons did earn the right to be named All-Defensive First Team last season.
This year, he wants more. A couple of weeks ago, Simmons made a bold but not surprising statement when he said he believes he's the best defensive player in the league right now.
On Thursday night, as the Sixers hosted the Dallas Mavericks and their superstar guard Luka Doncic, Simmons embraced the matchup. And once again, Simmons improved his case as he locked up Doncic throughout the entire match.
"I do feel like I'm the best defensive player in the league," Simmons postgame on the TNT broadcast. "I can guard one through five." Against Dallas, Simmons' key task was putting the clamps on Doncic.
Through the first half of Thursday's game, Doncic shot just three-for-nine from the field, putting up 11 points. In the second half, Doncic only saw the court for ten minutes. During that time, he only got up four shots, collecting eight points.
Heading into Thursday's game, Doncic was averaging nearly 30 points-per-game. After facing Simmons and the Sixers, he managed to only put up 19 points as the 76ers collected their 22nd win of the year by defeating Dallas 111-97.
“[I was] just being me, doing what I do,” the three-time All-Star said after the game in regards to his defense on Doncic. “I like taking those challenges. I’ve said this over and over again. Just tell me who to guard.”
The Sixers needed Simmons to guard the Mavs superstar, and he did a job well done. Now, the Sixers are looking forward to facing the Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_