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ESPN projects Ben Simmons as 2016-17 Rookie of the Year favorite

The No. 1 overall pick is projected to claim the Rookie of the Year award, according to a panel of over 200 NBA experts and contributors from ESPN.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Simmons is who we thought he was going to be in the Summer League. The No. 1 pick flashed phenomenal vision, the ability to effectively set up teammates for high percentage looks and tendencies that could be beneficial when he's asked to run the point in the regular season. He also left an evident impression on the NBA media and experts. In ESPN's annual Summer Forecast: NBA Rookie of the Year edition, Simmons is heavily favored to claim the ROTY crown in his debut season.

Last year, Minnesota's otherworldly big man Karl-Anthony Towns led the projections with 11 first-place votes while Jahlil Okafor followed with nine. The Ben Simmons-Brandon Ingram 1A and 1B debate petered out as the draft neared and many experts have faith that Simmons will have the most impact as a rookie in the 2016-17 season.

Even in the midst of the Sixers' notorious logjam, Simmons is projected to get starters minutes and, like Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams previously, is expected to get serious burn as a rookie. Head coach Brett Brown has said that he'll attempt to implement Simmons progressively into point guard role on the team.

That only will fuel his assists and usage rate, with the ball operating through his diagrammed decisions. Assistant coach Billy Lange utilized Simmons in a point guard role at the Las Vegas Summer League and, overall, his versatility shined, averaging 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists over his four games in Vegas.

With the Rookie of the Year voting favoring base statistics over a player's impact on wins, Simmons could be the leading candidate to take home the hardware. Joel Embiid received nine points from the panel, trailing Kris Dunn (89 points), Brandon Ingram (71) and Buddy Hield (18).

Not being able to play in the Summer League and prove that he's healthy could've been a factor in the panel's lack of faith in Embiid's chances to win the ROTY award. Also, Dario Saric received one point, as his arrival to Philadelphia only makes Simmons' and Embiid's transitions easier as a jack-of-all-trades talent with ball handling prowess.