Devin Booker goes off for 36 points vs. Sixers after Ben Simmons' 'best defender in the NBA' claim

Jack Baer
·2-min read

If Ben Simmons is to be believed, Devin Booker just went off against the team with the best defender in the NBA.

The Phoenix Suns star posted 36 points on 14-of-23 shooting with five rebounds and four assists in a 120-111 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. The win gives the Suns five straight, and moves them into fourth place in the Western Conference.

Booker's performance came at an awkward time for Simmons, as just days ago he was telling reporters he feels like "the best defender in the NBA." On Saturday, he was the primary defender on Booker for much of the game, though not all of the Suns star's points were his fault.

Ben Simmons' difficult day at the office

By Yahoo Sports' count after reviewing the play-by-play, Booker was 6-of-12 from the field with 19 points and two turnovers when Simmons was defending him, though that's muddled a bit by help defense and the complexities of what happens on an NBA court. After Booker shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in the second quarter with Danny Green guarding him, Simmons took over much of the defensive duties against Booker.

There were some strong plays on defense from Simmons, some less strong plays and sometimes Booker made shots that no defender on Earth can reliably stop.

Obviously, a performance against a single player in a single game doesn't single-handedly sink Simmons' claim as the best defender in the NBA, but it does underscore just how hard it is to be an elite defender in the NBA. In the Sixers' last four games, Simmons has faced Booker, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, De'Aaron Fox and James Harden, and that's pretty much par for the course for a player whose size and agility leaves him defending every team's best wing or guard.

That's pretty much what Simmons was saying when staking his claim:

"I take pride in guarding the best player on the floor every night. It's not a one-off thing. If you watch me, I'm typically guarding the best player, and typically the best players are guards or shooting guards, point guards, whatever it is. And I love that. I love the fact that my teammates can look at me and tell me, 'You gotta go out and lock this guy up.'

"There's nights that guys go off. That's going to happen. But most of the time, I feel like I'm doing a good job and making the right plays. I feel like I'm the best defender in the NBA."

Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz now await Simmons on Monday.

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