Ben Simmons ignited social media on Thursday when he dished out a dazzling behind the back pass to Jimmy Butler.
The assist was electrifying and showed off Simmons’ immense skillset, but in the same game a major flaw in his arsenal was exposed.
And no, this time it wasn’t to do with his jumpshot.
Going up against the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors, the 76ers once again fell short in a 113-102 defeat.
Simmons ended the game with a respectable line of eight points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. But with the good comes the bad and that for Simmons was his seven turnovers.
As the team’s point guard, Simmons has continually been plagued by loose ball handling and aggressive passing and turns the ball over at a high rate.
Twenty-five games into the 2018/19 season and the Australian superstar has already turned the ball over 89 times, good enough for sixth highest in the league.
But it’s against the Raptors, a team the 76ers will likely have to defeat if they plan on going further in the playoffs than last season, where his flaw is exposed at a higher rate. And it’s all thanks to one man.
Since entering the league back in 2011, Kawhi Leonard has made a living tormenting players on the defensive end.
After spending his first seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard was sent to the Toronto Raptors after a peculiar last season.
Leonard’s resume includes an NBA championship, a Finals MVP, two All-NBA First Team selections, three NBA All-Defensive First Team nods and two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
His instincts on the defensive end of the court are enough to give even the biggest superstars in the game sleepless nights and he’s now claimed Simmons’ scalp in two games this season.
Despite giving up three inches to Simmons, Leonard simply doesn’t allow the Aussie any room to do what he wants to do; which is get out and run in the open floor.
It’s an incredibly worrying trend for the 76ers and is something both the team and Simmons will need to address if they’re to prove they belong at the top of the conference standings.
And the ugly nature of the matchup has been well and truly highlighted throughout the two showings so far this season.
“In two games as the primary defender against the Sixers point guard Ben Simmons, the sophomore has turned the ball over 18 times. Leonard is tormenting him,” Eric Koreen wrote for The Athletic.
The 76ers will square off against the Raptors the day before Christmas, before their final meeting of the regular season takes place in early February.
By the time those games roll around, all eyes will well and truly be locked on the duel between Simmons and Leonard.
If Simmons can’t protect the ball and stop the gargantuan amount of turnovers, the results will simply go the same way as the first two contests.
Perhaps the 76ers could look into doing to Leonard what plenty of teams did during the 2016/17 season.
As CBS Sports’ Matt Moore highlighted, opposing teams would simply park whoever Leonard was guarding in the corner. Forcing him to stand still and thus taking him out of impacting the game.
Unfortunately this is where Simmons’ other big issue comes into play, his inability or unwillingness to shoot from anywhere outside of five feet means defenders simply don’t have to pay attention to him beyond the three point arc.
So unless fellow 76ers teammate Jimmy Butler gets hot and starts torching the Raptors, Simmons can expect a heavy dose of Leonard throughout the regular season and more likely than not in the playoffs.