It was only two games, so the sample size is small. But what Ben Simmons displayed on those two nights gave everyone a glimpse into the potential he has. The 76ers were a part of the second annual Utah Summer League, and Simmons put on solid all-around performances in those games and looked like one of the best players on the floor.
In his one season at LSU, Simmons shouldered a good chunk of the scoring load for the Tigers and averaged 19.2 points per game for the year. He got a lot of his buckets by using his size to overpower opponents and get to the cup, pretty much, at will. This was hardly the case in Utah, as Simmons struggled whenever he looked to shoot. In his first outing, he dropped ten points on the Boston Celtics but shot very poorly from the field and finished 2/9. However, Simmons was the biggest guy on the floor at 6-10, 240, and his skill set allowed him to blow by defenders and get to the free throw line, where he finished 6/6.
The second game saw a decrease in scoring output, mainly because Simmons had no rhythm from the free throw line. It was his second-straight bad shooting performance, and the 2/8 clip dropped his field goal percentage down to 23.5. The struggles from the charity stripe didn’t help, and Simmons went just 2/6 and finished with six points.
It’s noteworthy to add that Jaylen Brown blocked Simmons twice in their matchup.
With an average of 7.5 rebounds per game, Simmons finished third on the leaderboard behind Kyle Anderson (8.3) and Trey Lyles (10.3). He was phenomenal on the glass at LSU thanks to his size and athleticism, and there were, evidently, no issues of that out in Salt Lake City. He pulled down eight in the opening game against the Celtics, and then seven in his second game, but his ability to handle and pass the ball make him a colossal threat in the open court, and there were various instances of that throughout the two games.
I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that Simmons will be among the best rebounders once the season starts. With an NBA-ready body and freak athleticism, Simmons can outjump and muscle around with the majority of the players in the NBA and then immediately be able to start the fast break and not wait around to outlet to his point guard.
I don’t like to give out A-pluses. But Simmons came about as close as anyone to being worthy of a perfect score. A 6-10 “power forward” led all Utah Summer League participants in assists per game with 5.5, and some of the passes he made were dazzling. His feel for the game is one that very few players possess, and he drops dimes that would make Chris Paul and John Stockton smile.
He can make the simple pass, too. On multiple occasions when he received the ball from a teammate, he zipped over a quick touch pass to another teammate that was under the basket or open for a jump shot. More impressive than his assists numbers is how he only turned the ball over twice in two games, illustrating not only a high skill level but a high basketball IQ.
Nothing to write home about on the defense end of the floor, but there weren’t too many expectations for him to be a defensive stopper. Not a single steal or block was tallied in the two games, and Simmons picked up four fouls in his second outing. A majority of his rebounds came on the defensive end, though, so that helped his grade a little bit.
As far as matchups go, Simmons is a respectable defender who can stay with most guys, but it remains to be seen if he’ll put forth the energy on defense while bearing such a huge offensive load. The last thing Philly fans would want to see is Simmons suffer from what James Harden does in Houston.
Ben Simmons put together two solid games for the Sixers, and had he been more efficient with putting the ball in the basket; he would’ve been in the conversation of best player in the Utah Summer League. However, that doesn’t take away from how impressive he looked as a facilitator and rebounder, which are two of his strongest traits.
Still, Simmons has improvements to make. The outside shot is definitely one of them, as he hit just one over the two games. Another thing would be to see more activity on the defensive end which would lead to more forced turnovers, thus allowing Simmons to get out in the open floor and create for himself and his teammates. Being more active in the passing lanes isn’t something that Simmons can’t do, as his 65 steals were good enough for second in the SEC.
Data courtesy of NBA.com and Sports-Reference
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