One of Ben Simmons' wishes turned into a reality.
The 76ers All-Star spoke of becoming recognized as one the NBA’s elite defenders before the start of the season. That happened Tuesday evening as Simmons was named to the league’s all-defensive team.
The point guard/power forward became the second Sixer in three seasons and seventh overall to garner first-team all-defensive honors. Former Sixer Robert Covington made the team in 2018.
The others were Dikembe Mutombo (2001), Maurice Cheeks (four times), Bobby Jones (six times), Moses Malone (1983), and Caldwell Jones (twice).
Simmons was joined on this season’s first team by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (defensive player of the year), Los Angeles Lakers forward (Anthony Davis), Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Bucks center Brook Lopez, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, and Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe were named to the second team.
Simmons' 88 first-team votes were second to Antetokounmpo’s 97.
The voting was based on players' performances before the NBA shutdown in March.
Simmons led the league in total steals (115) and steals per game (2.1) despite missing the final eight games leading into shutdown with a pinched nerve in his lower back. He was also second in the league in deflections (216) and third in deflections per game (four).
The 24-year-old was a distant fourth in the defensive-player-of-the-year voting. He received one first-place vote, five seconds and 12 thirds en route to 32 total points. Antetokounmpo had 75 first-place votes and 432 total points.
The Sixers moved Simmons from point guard to power forward during the NBA restart in Kissimmee, Fla. However, he played in only three games before having what turned out to be season-ending surgery on Aug. 10 to remove a loose body in his left knee. He suffered a temporary partial dislocation of his left kneecap on Aug. 5 against the Washington Wizards.