PHILADELPHIA – Brett Brown has praised the growing defensive talents of Ben Simmons while also confirming that Simmons will spend time defending Toronto Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard in the second round.
“I think that Ben grows before our eyes,” Brown said at Philadelphia 76ers practice today. “His defensive effort in the Brooklyn series on D’Angelo [Russell]; I don’t know if it gets the credit. I don’t read much but I don’t think it gets the credit it should. We hope to have some carryover from that.”
Simmons spent the majority of the first round defending Brooklyn’s lone All-Star, D’Angelo Russell, and the Australian restricted Russell to some of his worst offensive games of the season.
Russell shot 33.3% with more turnovers (seven) than assists (six) in the 175 possessions Simmons was his primary defender during the series. Brooklyn scored just 85.1 points per 100 possessions during that time. For context, the NBA’s worst offence during the regular season scored 104 points per 100 possessions.
Brown routinely praised Simmons’ defensive showing during the Brooklyn series and is now relying on his second year point guard to help curtail Leonard. The Sixers head coach admitted he will throw a variety of defenders at Leonard, including Simmons.
“We have the ability to have multiple people guard Kawhi so it would be wrong to assume [Kawhi] is Ben’s matchup for the series,” Brown said. “For sure he will be on him but I think we have different candidates and we hope to show Kawhi different looks.”
Philadelphia has lost 13 straight games in Toronto, and will be looking to end their longest active road losing streak when Game 1 tips off on Saturday evening local time.
Just like his team, Simmons has struggled against Toronto. He has been prone to turnover binges that cripple the Sixers offence. For context, Simmons has recorded six or more turnovers in a game 22 times during his NBA career and five of these have come against Toronto. Three of those came this season in direct opposition to Leonard, all Philadelphia losses.
Brown refused to elaborate on what can be done to control Simmons’ turnover issues, and instead focused on praising Leonard.
“There are some things we have to do better at,” Brown said. “We hope that we can study and I believe we are. [Kawhi] is still an All-Star and one of the great players in the NBA for a reason and he just us incredibly gifted both sides of the ball."
Taking care of the basketball is a time wide issue for the Sixers as they averaged 18.8 turnovers per game against the Raptors this season. Reducing this number is a key focus of everyone on the Sixers side.
“There are certain philosophies from them that we need to be better at and the main one I think about is taking care of the ball,” says J.J. Redick.
“They are long and athletic and play at times a swarming style of defence. You saw that during the Orlando series and we have to be good with that. We have to be good with taking care of the basketball.”