Ben Simmons: Future Hall of Famer
The kangaroo was the most renowned animal to come from Australia. That was until Ben Simmons decided "basketball unicorn" had a better ring to it. That is exactly what the 6'10 point guard is: a basketball unicorn. His skill package is nearly unfounded and only puts him in the company of all-time greats. Let's get into a breakdown of how and why he's been the brightest young star of the season.
The skill that carried him into the first pick in the 2016 draft is the same skill that has placed him among the league's most unique players. At 6'10, Simmons is a rarified true point guard with the main reason being his ability to see over defenses and make elite reads on offense leading to his 7.7 assist per game. Simmons has a feel for the game that supersedes his power forward build, placing him in the category of true pass first point guards even at his 6'10 size. He's constantly dissecting defenses and adjusting to what he sees on that end when placed against NBA defenses. Although pass first, he avoids the pitfalls of that similar archetype by not forcing the pass or hunting assists but instead allowing the game to come to him and make quick read and react decisions, propelling a burgeoning Sixer's offense.
What's more impressive is the variety in which he's getting these assists. Although his it is his primary fashion, Simmons finds other ways to share the ball then simple drive and kicks to Robert Covington and their other three point sniper that has everyone in Philly considering getting a half sleeve tatoo. Ben is keenly aware of how defenses react to him in both the pick and roll and in mid-post post ups. If the defense doubles him in any instance, Simmons is whipping the ball to the next open man for an assist or hockey assist - whatever hockey is. Whenever attacking the basket, Simmons has his eyes wide looking to feed the likes of Joel Embiid and Amir Johnson for dump off passes that lead to dunks or layup attempts that take anywhere from 7-18 pump fakes to get off - sorry, Amir. Ben will only improve as a passer as he's allotted more repetitions to figure out how to pick NBA defenses apart.
Rebounding and Defense
When your point guard is averaging nearly 10 rebounds a game, you're living pretty easily. When your point guard can capably and effectively switch on defense from point guard to center, you're on top of the world. When your point guard is Ben Simmons, you're living easily on top of the world. Simmons is most effective when he tears down the full court, crashing unset defenses but he does so best after snatching a defense rebound. Simmons has fairly good positioning tactics as he drops from the perimeter off the point guard and finds the angle the balls traveling and establishes good position. He's also not afraid of making contact for rebounds and using his athleticism and height to sky for rebounds.
Defensively, Ben has been a total 180 from his LSU days. His capability to defend was never in question as he supported a high steals per game of 2.0. in college but fell into lackadaisical habits that had scouts questioning his desire to defend. Enter: head coach Brett Brown. Brown has required and relied on Ben and Covington to be the modernized dream of positionless defense. Ben's lateral quickness allows him to match the speed of nearly any guard in the Association while his height and elite defensive instincts have him stealing at a LiAngelo Ball rate. Too soon?
Every time someone belts out "Ben Simmons can't shoot!" they are now, by law, required to follow it with "…but he's averaging 18 points a game on 50% on the season." By simple logic, if the jumper ever does become reliable, it’s safe to say the NBA is cancelled for the next decade with championships parades down Broadway street in its place. In all seriousness - Ben has shown a prowess for scoring that most weren't expecting and he's doing it in unique ways. Simmons has developed a reliable jump hook to substitute for a jump shot attempt. He's more comfortable with that shot and he's hitting it at a rate that it opens up the lane a little more.
Simmons has finished at the basket well, trading in his early season finesse shots for "dunking on every one and thing you love" shots and it's boosted his efficiency, to say the least. Ben's jumper isn’t a necessity just to up his points per game and make him a more complete scorer. If Ben can add a reliable three point shot that warrants respect, the Red Seas will part more than they already have making for a devastating, top 5 NBA player. That potential destination is hard to ignore when you factor that in with his elite passing, rebounding and defensive upside. That's Simmons' ceiling - add a jump shot to his already better-than-expected scoring package and you just won't be able to stop the man.
STATS - basketballreference.com