Ben Simmons has his detractors, but the NBA coaches appreciate what the Sixers' point guard brings to the table.
Simmons on Thursday was named an NBA All-Star Game reserve. This comes on the heels of the Australia native being named to Team World for the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star weekend.
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He'll join Joel Embiid on Feb. 17 in Charlotte. We won't know which teams Simmons and Embiid will be on until Thursday, Feb. 7, when captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo select their squads.
It's the first time the Sixers have had two players selected to the game since 2001-02, when Allen Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo were named to the East team.
Four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler did not get the nod this season. From a pure talent standpoint, Butler certainly is among the East's best players. It was most likely his reputation -fair or not - that cost him a spot. He could still get as a replacement for injured Pacers star Victor Oladipo.
Injured guard Victor Oladipo will be replaced on the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves, with Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell and Philadelphia's Jimmy Butler as top candidates to take Oladipo's spot.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 1, 2019
The Sixers haven't had three All-Stars since 1986-87 (Charles Barkley, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks).
There was a decent case for Simmons to be named an All-Star during his rookie season, but the coaches ultimately favored selecting veterans - even as players dropped out of the game. It would've been a flat-out snub if Simmons hadn't made it this year.
The 22-year-old has posted averages of 16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.2 assists in 33.4 minutes a game. He's tied for second in the NBA this season with eight triple-doubles. He's also shown marked improvement on the defensive end of the floor.
"It's not that I call his number a bunch. He puts his thumbprint on a game immediately with his athleticism and his size," Brett Brown said of Simmons following the Sixers' win Tuesday. "He can rebound and run and create and get to the rim. He has been doing this at historic proportions. I think he is an NBA All-Star. … He really can impact a game without someone force-feeding him all the time."
Simmons' critics will point to his lack of a jump shot as one of the reasons he shouldn't be selected. When you look at the other ways he affects a game, that's a little silly. The lack of jumper certainly hurts at times, but there's no denying Simmons' overall impact.
You could also point to Simmons' poor performance against the league's elite teams, as our national NBA insider Tom Habestroh addressed Thursday. It's a fair criticism, but is that the standard every NBA All-Star is getting held to?
For Simmons, he's no longer "All-Star caliber." He's just an All-Star - and he deserves it.
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