I’m going to keep this short and simple–People don’t understand how good Ben Simmons is going to be. Earlier this offseason, Simmons told reporters he was not aiming to be among the top NBA rookies. Instead, Simmons is focused on being amongst the NBA’s elite. Here are a few reasons why I believe Simmons, and fully expect him to be an All-Star in his first season as a pro.
1. His Body
One of the primary problems that rookie’s face upon entering the league are the physical disadvantages that come with being a college kid in a man’s league. According to Draft Express, Simmons entered the NBA at 6’10, 240 pounds–a staggering combination of both strength and height. How does Simmons’ physical profile compare to other forwards in the 2017 rookie class? Boston forward Jayson Tatum, listed an inch taller than Simmons, was drafted at 204 pounds. A 36 pound difference between the 2 players. Suns rookie Josh Jackson, listed at just under 6’10, was drafted at 203 pounds. The only 2 NBA forwards drafted in the top 10 between 6’8-6’10 and over 240 pounds- Lebron James and Blake Griffin.
2. A Year Off
After breaking his foot in late September last season, Brett Brown laid out a “3 pronged approach” to the rookie’s rehabilitation process. The 3 prongs consisted of strength development, shot reconstruction, and film. The first, strength development, is highlighted in point 1. Simmons entered the league at 240 pounds, a year later, Simmons is reportedly hovering just above 250 pounds. Ben’s biggest flaw coming out of LSU was not only the absence of an outside jump shot, but the seeming unwillingness to even attempt a jump shot outside of 18 feet. Having a jump shot in today’s NBA is critical to success, and remains Simmons’ biggest obstacle to becoming one of the NBA’s elite. Since this is a projection blog, I have no real evidence other than an Instagram video of Simmons hitting several 3 point jumpers in a row, that Simmons has gotten his jump shot up to par. I am not going to sit here and confidently blog that Simmons will show a formidable jump shot in his rookie season. I do, however, have confidence in the Sixers coaching staff. Since Brett Brown got to Philadelphia, he has emphasized, “defense, pace, and space.” The Sixers are one of only a few NBA teams that track every single jump shot attempted by each player during practice. It was through this exercise that the front office determined after just one year and a half that Michael Carter-Williams would never develop a formidable enough jump shot to lead a playoff team. Years later, Carter-Williams has been unable to crack an NBA rotation. This emphasis on effective jump shooting, combined with a year off in the gym, leads me to thorough optimism that Simmons will have an improved jump shot in 2017.
3. His speed
Despite a strong emphasis on pace last season, the Sixers finished near the bottom of the NBA in transition points per possession. With TJ McConnell running the floor, the Sixers simply did not have the speed from the point guard position to be able to push the pace after securing a defensive rebound. This is far from the case with Simmons. According to Synergy Sports, Simmons was the primary ball handler in transition for 26 percent of his offensive plays at LSU, despite playing an off-ball, traditional, power forward role. Comparatively, Providence College PG Kris Dunn was the primary ball handler in transition for 25 percent of his offensive plays in college. For Dunn, these numbers make sense. He played point guard and was heavily relied upon to handle the ball for his college team. For Simmons, at 6’10 250 pounds, these numbers are ridiculous. Put this into perspective as it pertains to the Sixers. Projected starting Small Forward Robert Covington ranked near the top of the NBA in deflections last season. Why are deflections important? They lead to steals, which lead to fast breaks–fast breaks that Simmons will be leading. Starting center Joel Embiid led the NBA in blocks per 36 minutes last season. Why are blocks important? They lead to fast breaks–fast breaks that Simmons will be leading. Combine these two elements with the fact that Simmons averaged nearly 13 rebounds per game in college and Brett Brown’s emphasis on pace. The result? Easy buckets.
Simmons’ effectiveness as a passer is well documented. He dazzled at LSU and during the summer league with his highlight passing ability. As mentioned in my third point, Simmons is going to be in a great position to succeed early on based on the players around him and the system that he will be playing in. It isn’t just the numbers that Simmons is inevitably going to produce that will differentiate him from the rest, it’s the way that he is going to do it. Simmons was a highlight reel during last year’s summer league–powerful dunks combined with no-look passes. There is just something about the smoothness of his game that is so attractive and pleasing to the basketball fan’s eye.
After a year off from injury and a loaded rookie class, Simmons has the 2nd best Vegas odds to win rookie of the year this season. The public eye has shifted away from Simmons and towards guys like Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson. As I watched this year’s summer league, I was most impressed by Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball, and Dennis Smith. I believe that they will have excellent NBA careers. However, every time I would go back and watch Simmons’ highlights from the previous year’s summer league, it was just different. Being drafted number one overall in the NBA draft comes with a certain type of expectation, by no means am I asserting that people are down on Ben Simmons. What I’m trying to say is that whatever your expectations are for Ben Simmons– he’s going to shatter them.