Although Philadelphia 76ers‘ Ben Simmons has all of the talent in the world (he’s 6-foot-10 and is basically a point guard), he has had a not-so-perfect road since his college days with the LSU Tigers. However, Simmons is back on track, and he’s arguably exceeding expectations after missing his entire first year in the NBA.
While Simmons had an impressive first — and only — year in college basketball with LSU (he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game), his team failed to make the NCAA tournament. Many people viewed that as a waste of a year for the uber-talented Simmons.
Nevertheless, he decided to take his talents to the next level by declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft, and, as expected, was picked No. 1 overall by the 76ers.
For Philadelphia, this was all part of “The Process.” Lose games and receive high selections in the NBA draft as a result.
So Philadelphia went with Simmons, a player who was being looked at as a future NBA star, and the next LeBron James.
Unfortunately for Simmons and the process in Philadelphia, he didn’t play a single game during his rookie year due to an injury.
While that was a huge letdown, Simmons returned to action in 2017-18, and he is now being deemed the best rookie in the league.
In Sports Illustrated’s rookie rankings, Simmons came in at No. 1.
Shooting is supposed to matter, right? I thought that was the whole lesson of the Warriors—shooting is the most important skill in the modern NBA. But so far Simmons has flipped that logic on its head. I wrote about this two years ago, wondering if maybe shooting concerns were overblown because Giannis was the blueprint for Simmons in the NBA, but eventually I became skeptical, too. There were questions about Simmons’s effort, his defense, and his shooting coming out of LSU, and it seemed like he’d complicate your team’s future as much as he’d improve it.
That No. 1 ranking shouldn’t be too hard to believe. After all, Simmons is putting up 18.7 points, 7.2 assists and 9.5 rebounds per game. Once again, he is a rookie, and he also stands at 6-foot-10, making that assist mark seem almost unbelievable (he leads the 76ers in assists, just for the record).
Just to further show off how impressive of a rookie year Simmons has had, take a look at the title of this ESPN article: Why Ben Simmons might be the best all-around rookie ever.
Ben Simmons has proven worth the wait. After missing the entire 2016-17 season with a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot suffered in training camp, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft has made a difference in a variety of manners during his delayed rookie season.
In helping the Philadelphia 76ers to a 7-6 start, Simmons leads all rookies in points (17.8), rebounds (9.2) and assists (7.5) per game. It took Simmons just four games to record his first career triple-double, and per Basketball-Reference.com, his two triple-doubles are already as many as any rookie has posted since Lamar Odom had three in 1999-2000.
Based on those stats, it’s worth asking whether there has ever been a rookie — including LeBron James — as versatile as Simmons.
Even LeBron himself has had high praise for Simmons (via Sports Illustrated):
“You have an opportunity,” James told Simmons early on, “to be better than me. But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work.” Those words helped sustain him when he stumbled at LSU and helped fuel him as he rehabbed in Philadelphia. “Is this really going to happen?” he asked himself. He knew, even if others wavered, that it would. Because LeBron said so, and for a prospect of Simmons’s vintage, no endorsement means more. “Part of his greatness,” Simmons says, “is that he wants others to be just as great.”
Simmons’ shooting might always be up for debate (he’s 0-8 from behind the arc this season), but that’s just because fans are used to stars/teams being able to shoot the ball extremely well thanks to the way the Golden State Warriors have dominated the league over the last few seasons, and experts comparing one great player to the next. If he ever develops his three-point shot, then great. If not, then he could still be a top player in this league in no time thanks to his upside, talent and versatility alone.
Being the next LeBron James or not, Simmons has had an impressive year so far, and he is a big reason why Philadelphia has seen so much success (of course, players like Joel Embiid can’t go unnoticed, and he certainly hasn’t).
At the time of writing, the 76ers are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 12-8 record.
Reminder: Philadelphia finished in second-to-last place in the East last season with a 28-54 record. The year before … well, the 76ers could only manage 10 wins.
While Simmons has seen some missteps along the way (such as not making the tournament in his only season in college hoops, and especially being sidelined during his entire first year in the NBA), he is now back on track. Call him the next LeBron, or whatever you would like, but it is clear that Simmons has a bright future ahead.
Currently, he is one of the best players on an up-and-coming team that is already competing for a spot in the NBA playoffs.
Assuming Simmons reaches the greatness that is making All-Star games on a yearly basis, taking home the MVP award(s), reaching the NBA Finals over and over again and [fill in the blank], hopefully we can all just sit back and watch said greatness unfold, as opposed to comparing him to other players in the form of saying he is not as good as other players.
LeBron has endured that treatment his entire career when it comes to people comparing him to Michael Jordan. It’s understandable, but at some point, we all just need to sit back and enjoy the show, for if Ben Simmons really ends up being as great as his talents would suggest … he could end up being one of the great ones.
With all of that said, it’s time to enjoy the rest of his rookie year.