For the past calendar year, Ben Simmons has been praised lavishly. The second coming of LeBron James dazzled at LSU as a freshman and continued to impress throughout the Summer League with the Philadelphia 76ers. The latest came from the mouth of president Bryan Colangelo, who spoke grand words about his first overall pick.
During an interview with Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast with Woj, Colangelo continued his advocacy of Simmons, “what we saw in Ben, was about the immense talent level that he has, and the possibility for greatness that he has.”
It didn’t stop there, though, and Simmons’ all-around play style led to Hall of Fame conversation:
All those things that got us excited about him about a possible No. 1 selection, it’s all coming to fruition, and hopefully over the next five to 10 years, we’ll all be part of that same growth of him becoming a great basketball player, and becoming a Hall of Fame type of player. Does he have it in him? I think he does. Does he have some work to do? Absolutely.
Will he need to put in the work? Absolutely. Is this jumping the gun? Absolutely.
Not to take anything away from Simmons, but if someone who hadn’t heard of him watched him play in the Summer League, they wouldn’t think he’s a Hall of Famer. The potential is there, and by potential, I mean all the gifts that God has blessed him with.
Simmons is 6’10, 250 with outstanding athleticism and guard skills. He can grab a rebound, push the ball in transition, and then execute a pass that only one percent of NBA players could replicate. Because of the skills he has and his body composition, he’s received countless comparisons to LeBron James, but that’s with good reason. While he won’t turn out to be the same, he’ll always have pieces of his game that are similar to James’.
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He’s going to have an excellent career because of everything that’s mentioned above, and if he continues to stick to this play style, he’ll go down as the greatest passing “big man” of all-time. The numbers may not be gaudy, but Simmons will be able to hand out six or seven assists per night consistently. What would set him apart, however, are the types of assists and degree of difficulty on them.
Take this for instance. Simmons hauls in the rebound, and then delivers a pin-point, no-look pass that hits his teammate in stride. Marvelous:
He does have questions surrounding him, though. At times, his effort looks suspect and leads to him looking bored on the court. I’m sure this isn’t the case, and it appears like that because he’s been so dominant over most of the competition. Then, there’s his jump shot and killer instinct. Remember, James didn’t have either when he first came into the NBA.
He may never add a jump shot, although he’s showed more confidence in it during the Summer League. If he does develop it, it’ll be because teams adjust to him, and he needs a way to combat that. As for his killer instinct, that’ll come as he matures. He won’t have a bloodlust like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, but, sporadically, he’ll have the urge to assert himself onto his opponents.
Defense is another lackluster area for Simmons, and evolving into a versatile, lockdown defender would do wonders for his career.
We round out the Hall of Fame criteria with the most important: winning. If Simmons constructs a lengthy, highly-productive career statistically, he’ll be considered for the Hall. Of course, “highly-productive” is a subjective phrase. For argument, let’s say Simmons averages at least 19 points, ten rebounds, and six assists over a 12-15 year period. He’d join Larry Bird as the only other player to put out those numbers, according to Basketball-Reference.
There’s a hidden point in there, too. Since the Sixers are a living atrocity, the young Austrailian has a chance to be the force that drives them into relevancy again. The odds of him winning a championship, though, are slim unless a star moves to Philly. But imagine he takes a ten-win team and over time turns them into one that wins anywhere from 45-49 games per year? It would be hard to discredit his impact on the franchise if that happened.
The Hall of Fame talk is nice, but it’s premature. Undoubtedly, his goal is to make it that far, but his biggest goal right now should be to do everything possible to improve his team and take them out of the NBA’s cellar.
Data courtesy of Basketball-Reference