Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers are locked in a tight battle with the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Alongside Joel Embiid, the Australian All-Star forms one half of arguably the most destructive defensive duo in the league. Overall, the Sixers are ranked second in the league for defensive efficiency, only trailing the Los Angeles Lakers.
Using his 6'10" frame and elite athleticism, the 24-year-old causes havoc on the perimeter, averaging 1.6 steals per game - good for a tie for fourth league-wide.
Head coach Doc Rivers recently made a pitch for Simmons to be named this season's Defensive Player of the Year on ESPN's The Jump. In an interview with Rachel Nichols, Simmons agreed with Rivers' assessment.
"Definitely, 100 percent," Simmons said. "I'm one of those guys who can guard one-through-five."
Utah All-Star big man, Rudy Gobert is also expected to be in the race for the award, with the two-time winner having an excellent season on a Jazz team with the best record in the NBA.
"Obviously I have a lot of respect for Rudy, I know what he's capable of, he's great down there in the paint but he's not guarding everybody," Simmons added.
"That's just what it is. He guarded me in Utah...I had 42 and apparently I'm not a scorer. I have a lot of respect for him but at the same time I think it's mine this year."
Going 1-on-1 with Ben Simmons on the Sixers' looming showdown with the Nets for the top of the East, what it was like being in the James Harden trade talks, and why he thinks he should be Defensive Player of the Year. (And yeah, um, he brought the receipts 👀) pic.twitter.com/c3l2hpzTNv- Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 13, 2021
The Sixers and Nets are currently tied with a 37-17 record, with a meeting in Philadelphia up next on the slate.
"It makes us really fight for every game," Simmons said of the race for top of the East. "Every game is important for us. Whenever you can play at home, especially playing in Philadelphia, we have a great home record so we want the No. 1 seed, we want to be able to play at home."
Much has been made of Brooklyn's burgeoning list of big name stars on the roster, with Simmons unphased by the challenge ahead.
"There's one ball and you have to play defence as well. I take pride in playing defence, I know if I'm able to get stops and give guys a hard time doing their job we're going to be able to go further. They have a lot of talent but at the same time you have to play together, it's a team game."
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