Simmons on verge of NBA Aussie first
Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has been on fire in the 2018/19 NBA season.
With averages of 16.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game, Simmons looks to be leading his side back to the NBA playoffs for the second straight season.
A consummate team player, the 22-year-old generally shuns personal accolades.
The reigning NBA rookie of the year, Simmons used his speech to thank family, friends, teammates and coaching staff, despite becoming the first Australian and third non-American to win the award.
However, there is one individual honour the superstar covets and just two seasons into his career, is in a position to reach - becoming an NBA All-Star.
If Simmons could pull it off, he would be the break new ground by becoming the first Australian to ever achieve the feat of making it to the All-Star Game.
The Melbourne-born superstar said he is proud to represent Australia on the international stage every time he plays.
"Support from Australia means everything because just being Australian, every time I put on a jersey, I know I'm not only representing my family, but Australia at the same time," Simmons told news.com.au.
"I also want to be the first Australian to be in the All-Star game, I think that would just be huge for Australian basketball. Not only for me but for little kids looking up to me. I think that would just be an amazing accomplishment."
Simmons has been ramping up his performances over the past month.
In his last 10 games, he averages 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists.
But having just moved over the halfway mark of the season, Simmons is on track to break two lofty marks he set in 2017/18.
He hit 38 double-doubles last year and 12 triple-doubles. This year he already has 27 double-doubles and seven triple-doubles.
But his current form has seen him register five triple-doubles in his last 13 matches and 76ers coach Brett Brown said he is deserving of the lofty accolade.
"I think he's on a mission to win games and be an All-Star," the Philadelphia 76ers head coach said on Wednesday. "And I will do everything I can to help him."
For Simmons, an All-Star berth would be humbling.
"I think being selected as an All-Star is a great accomplishment. Being an All-Star, you're looked at as being one of the best players in the league," he said.
"Being in the NBA is already a great accomplishment for a lot of guys and I want to get to that next level. I believe what I've been doing as of late has shown that I'm up there with those guys."
Simmons, a Kayo Sports ambassador, is stuck in a dogfight for an All-Star spot, sitting fourth in guard voting in the Eastern Conference behind Kyrie Irving (2.3m votes), Dwyane Wade (1.1m votes) and Kemba Walker (858,798 votes).
Simmons is sitting on 695,032 votes, according to the second round of fan vote returns released by the NBA on Thursday, almost 130,000 votes ahead of the fifth placed Victor Oladipo.
The fan votes will account for 50 per cent of the vote with player selection and media selection accounting for a further 25 per cent each with those voters completing one full ballot featuring two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference.
The two guards and three frontcourt players with the best score in each conference will be named NBA All-Star Game starters.
The two team captains will be the two players with the highest accumulation of votes and after the vote will draft rosters from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference, making their picks regardless of conference affiliation.
With the 76ers currently 27-16 for the season and sitting in fourth in the Eastern Conference, Simmons said his side are starting to hit their straps.
On a personal note, he's hoping to take his game to the next level.
"Personally I think I've got a lot of growing to do in terms of defence and offence but I can see the growth starting to happen slowly over time," he said.
"I'm putting the work in to get to where I want to be and I think the sky's the limit as long as I have the mentality to go out every night and try to get better and get wins for my team.
"(The 76ers) have some things locked down where we look great but we have a lot of growing to do at the same time.
"We have a lot of young guys on the team and it's going to take a lot to get to the next level but I believe in what we have and the coaching staff we have that we can get there but it really depends on how hard we push each other."