The Sixers drafted Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in June, and shortly after he became a pro, Fultz declared he’d like to be the greatest player of all-time. It looks like he’s going to have some competition for that spot, because Ben Simmons has a similarly lofty goal heading into his rookie season.
In a brief interview with ESPN’s Niall Seewang, Simmons revealed that he’s not so concerned about the other rookies he’ll debut with this season. Instead, his eye is on a bigger prize: becoming the league’s top dog.
"My goal is to be the best in the league," said Simmons. "I'm not worried about other rookies -- I'm worried about the guys at the top, and that's where I want to be."
From a physical and mental standpoint, Simmons has everything you could possibly dream of in a potential star. The skills aren’t quite there yet—insert the obligatory jump shot mention here—but even there, he’ll be an elite passer from his first in the league onward, so he’s far from a raw product.
To that end, Simmons kept a positive perspective on the time he missed last season, and he insists it will aid him in his quest to push the Sixers back to the playoffs.
Physically I feel really good. [I am] ready to play and get the season started, I've just got to go out and work hard ... and if everyone in the team does the same thing, I think we can do great things.
There was definitely [some advantages to having a year off]. I've had a whole year to grow and learn and focus on what I need to focus on. I think that whole year has really helped me," he said, adding he needed to continue to work on "learning the game, scoring, defence ... everything.
All things being equal, I don’t know that there’s a proper replacement for Simmons missing an entire season worth of developmental reps. Still, you all saw what Joel Embiid was able to do with two years off, so maybe Simmons was able to get the little things in order—establishing a proper diet is a big transition for a lot of young guys—while he waited to make his NBA debut.
Training camp is now less than a month away, and we’ll get to see with our own eyes whether Simmons can translate his aspirations into progress. He has the talented teammates he needs to make it happen, and given what he has accomplished to this point, there’s little reason to doubt he can put himself in the conversation one day.