ESPN published their annual Best 25 [NBA players] Under [the age of] 25 yesterday (2/26), and the list prominently featured a pair of Sixers. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both ranked in the top five players on the list, with Embiid coming in at no. 2 and Simmons rounding out at fifth. The list was populated according to the average ranking of each player in the Top 25 from three ESPN personalities: Kevin Pelton, Chris Herring and Bobby Marks.
I don’t put a ton of stock into these sorts of lists. Players shoot up and down them year-to-year. Also, I’m confident that many of our readers could put together their own Top 25 that would be arguably just as respectable as ESPN’s. But it is still interesting to get an idea of how more objective opinions view the Sixers two young studs, especially in this particular list given that Marks is a former NBA executive, and Herring and Pelton are a couple of the more analytically-inclined national voices. So you get a sort of a traditional scouting opinion, as well as a more new-school team building approach.
2. Joel Embiid (Marks: 2nd/Herring: 2nd/Pelton: 4th)
When healthy, Embiid is a dominant presence on both ends of the court. Besides averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds per game this season, Embiid ranks first in defensive rebounds, second in free throws made and attempted, and seventh in blocks.
If there is a concern, it’s about how his heavier workload impacts his health. Not only is he playing more games, but his minutes per game have increased from 25.4 to 30.4 and now 33.7. He is currently sidelined with right-knee soreness and has dealt with back tightness this season. -- Marks
5. Ben Simmons (Marks: 4th/Herring: 4th/Pelton: 6th)
The youngest player in this season’s All-Star Game, Simmons has quickly established himself as one of the league’s most versatile contributors as a 6-foot-10 point guard.
There’s no question Simmons will be a star for seasons to come, but whether he can reach superstardom may depend on his ability to develop a jump shot. Per NBA.com, Simmons has made just 10 shots all season outside the paint after hitting 30 as a rookie. To keep defenses honest and be a threat without the ball in his hands, Simmons must improve his volume and accuracy. -- Pelton
You can view the full ranking here. (Insider subscription required.)