Ben Simmons’ elite skills at both ends of the court have been rewarded with the Australian ace selected for the NBA All-Star game for a third successive year.
The Philadelphia 76ers guard is among 14 players selected by the NBA’s head coaches as reserves for the showpiece game in Atlanta on March 7.
Simmons, who made a slow start to the season as the Sixers found their feet with Doc Rivers coming in as their new coach and two new starters, is averaging 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists for the east’s top team.
In his past four games he is averaging 27.8 points, which includes a career-best 42-point haul, while his defence has many touting him one of the game’s elite two-way players.
“I’m very grateful to be in this position and be able to say I’m a three-time All-Star in the best league in the world,” Simmons said.
“I think defensively I’ve stepped it up… And offensively just trying to be the point guard and run the team, staying aggressive and keeping my guys locked in.”
Simmons is on the eastern conference list that includes James Harden, Julius Randle, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
In the west, Zion Williamson gets a nod along with Chris Paul, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis.
New Orleans forward Williamson, 20, is the fourth-youngest player chosen in the game’s 70-year history to be named an All Star, as one of four first timers – the others being Boston’s Brown, New York’s Randle and Chicago’s LaVine.
Team captains LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant of the Nets will draft their teams next week, with the rosters to be unveiled on March 4.
Starters, revealed last week, were chosen through a combination of voting by fans, NBA players and a media panel.
For the west they are: Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic and James.
For the east they are: Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Durant.
On the flip side, a stack of talented players missed the cut with the absence of Phoenix sharp-shooter Devin Booker a particularly sore point for James.
“Devin Booker is the most disrespected player in our league!!!! Simple as that,” James tweeted.
Utah’s Quin Snyder will coach Team LeBron while Rivers will coach Team Durant.