With the weight of a down-trodden fanbase resting on his 19-year-old shoulders, Philadelphia 76rs number one pick Ben Simmons has already shown glimpses of why many believe he could be the next superstar in the NBA. Of course, these glimpses have come during the NBA Summer League, so any sweeping declarations about the future of a kid that can’t even buy a beer yet (except for those road trips to Toronto, God bless Canada, eh?) ought to be viewed with a heathy dose of skepticism. That being said, here’s a quick look at what Simmons has done well so far and where he still needs to improve his game.
Passing and Vision
Let’s start with the good stuff – Simmons’ passing and vision in his first two Summer League games has been tremendous. He appears to already be processing the game at NBA-speed. Simmons seemed to know where each of his teammates were at all times. Often he found them for assists, though nearly as often his teammates were fouled or missed the shot. In two games (about 52 minutes of total playing time) Simmons gained 11 assists, but could easily have had twice that.
Example 1: Simmons grabs a rebound, takes a long dribble, and finds Timothe Luwawu streaking behind three defenders for the layup. A chest pass here would be picked off. Simmons makes a perfect bounce pass before leaving the backcourt and hits Luwawu perfectly in stride.
Example 2: Simmons scoops up a loose ball, dribbles through, around, or past four defenders, and finds Richaun Holmes under the basket who gets fouled – no assist for Simmons. That a 6’10 player can negotiate that much traffic on the fast break would be impressive enough, but somehow Simmons also knows exactly where Holmes is and threads the ball between two defenders perfectly.
These are just two of the many outstanding plays that Ben Simmons made in his first two Summer League games. Coach Brett Brown has compared him to the great Magic Johnson. While it’s way too early for that sort of talk, Simmons demonstrates a special level of passing and court vision – something that really can’t be taught.
It’s no secret that Simmon’s offense has room to improve. At LSU, he averaged 19 points per game, but the majority of those came on shots at or near the hoop. In his Summer League games, Simmons has even struggled with those shots, at times. Continually hesitant to shoot, he always looks to pass and, as was stated above, he does that quite well. Simmons’ did show his ability to drive to basket – often getting fouled in the process. He appears comfortable going left or right, and with his size and speed, he presents a matchup nightmare.
Example 1: Simmons drives to his left off a (sloppy) screen, tucks the ball away, gets fouled, and misses the tough layup. His strength, body control, and athleticism shine through in this play. Chalk up the miss to rust, as Simmons regularly made tough shots like these at LSU.
Example 2: Simmons shakes left, crosses over to his right, and finishes with a layup and a chance at a three-point play. Eventually, it’d be nice to see him finish above the rim, but Simmons will give defenders fits. Look for defenses to start pinching to clog the lane against him, leaving space on the perimeter for open shots.
It’s hard to demand much cogent, team defense in the Summer League. The rookies on the SL roster have more fingers than they do NBA practices under their respective belts at this point. It’s unfair to cherry-pick a few bad moments in two games and proclaim some truth about a player’s defensive ability. Simmons showed a willingness while on defense, but occasionally lost his man or got out of position while ball-watching. His length and quickness set the groundwork for a potentially all-pro defender, but neither his college career nor these two short Summer League games have seen that potential truly tapped. With time and coaching, Simmons could be an excellent defender, but there’s no evidence that’s the case, right now.
Ben Simmons has already delighted Sixers fans with his passing ability in two short Summer League appearances. The prospect of Simmons playing point forward and being the primary ball handler on the Sixers appears to be a reasonable expectation. While it remains to be seen how his defense and scoring abilities progress, Simmons is probably seven years away from his prime. If his floor is merely an outstanding passer in the NBA, it’s magical to think about what his ceiling might be.
What have you liked from Ben Simmons, thus far? Any concerns about his game? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below.