Ben Simmons pulls down the defensive rebound and darts up the floor. With his eyes fixated on the far side of the court, he threads a perfect skip pass between two defenders to a streaking Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot on the nearside. A chorus of oohs and aahs filled the recycled stadium air as he casually lays the ball in, Simmons raising his arm high in triumph.
I’m watching Ben Simmons Summer League highlights on YouTube again.
If you’re like me, this is something you’ve done a lot over the past seven months – particularly the last two or three. Robbed of the first-overall pick’s true rookie season, the seven-minute-and-fifty-two second video provided the closest thing we had to a glimpse of what Simmons would look like in a Sixers uniform. (Spoiler alert: it looks really good on him)
The Melbourne native arrived in Philadelphia last summer as a 6’10” power forward, but despite not playing a single game in either the preseason or regular season he ended the year as a maybe seven-foot point guard. Brett Brown recently doubled down on early-season comments about the 20-year-old’s ability to play lead guard, and Bryan Colangelo recently compared him to Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
In reality, Simmons will likely play some sort of hybrid role when he makes his debut this coming fall, handling the brunt of the ballhandling duties offensively while defending a mix of opposing point guards, shooting guards, and forwards depending upon nightly matchups. But no matter what position he plays, expect him to make an immediate impact.
Let’s take a closer look at those Summer League highlights, imagining how his game might fit with his current teammates. First, imagine Simmons executing this perfectly timed drive and dish with Joel Embiid rather than Richaun Holmes:
Then imagine him firing this no-look bounce pass to the corner and Robert Covington or Nik Stauskas hoisting the shot instead of Brandon Paul:
And finally imagine Simmons pulling off this LeBron-like whip pass to Markelle Fultz or Malik Monk instead of TLC:
Over the course of Brett Brown’s tenure with the Sixers, point guards have been the primary drivers of team success. Sure, Joel Embiid – and to a lesser extent Nerlens Noel before him –were at one point the team’s most valuable contributors, but it was Michael Carter-Williams (when he was sorta good), Ish Smith, Ish Smith a second time, and T.J. McConnell’s proficiency over guys like Tony Wroten, Kendall Marshall, Isaiah Canaan, and Sergio Rodriguez that made perhaps the biggest difference. Now, take last year’s point guard rotation and insert Ben Simmons atop it, and Brown’s got a LOT more talent to work with. And that’s before a draft that could bring another blue chip point guard prospect to Philly.
Over the past three seasons, the Sixers have ranked ninth in the league in made threes while ranking dead last in three-point percentage, a testament to their commitment to letting Michael Carter-Williams, Jerami Grant, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot fire from beyond the arc without conscience. Ben Simmons’ wonky jumper won’t help the Sixers in that regard, but his ability to find shooters in their spots is uncanny. Watch the video below (courtesy of DraftExpress) and imagine what guys like Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Nik Stuaskas, and potentially some other shooters through the draft and free agency could do with the open looks he’ll provide.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the fact that he averaged 19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds as a freshman at LSU. And that there were rumblings out of training camp last fall that the 6’10” point-forward had emerged as one of the team’s best defenders. And that he’s still 20 years old… Ben Simmons is an absolute stud, he’s ours, and in six months Brett Brown will unleash a lineup that potentially features him, Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid – two elite, near seven-foot playmakers, a knockdown shooter, a three-and-d wet dream, and a 7’2” Space Jam Monstar who calls himself The Process.
Fellas, this starts now.
What would you do with Ben Simmons?
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