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Play-making ability will be key to Simmons' success

The top pick of 2016 should have plenty of chances to display his court vision during Philadelphia's Summer League run

POSTED: Jul 1, 2016 7:39 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Draft Night Recap

Ben Simmons is selected No. 1 overall by Philadelphia as the NBA introduces a new draft class into the fold.

He is so unique that there is no point in discussing whether this is the first step in Ben Simmons changing basketball as he changes the Philadelphia 76ers, because it's not like teams will have a lot of 6-foot-10, 245-pound playmaking power forwards to choose from in the future.

Some of the other recent No. 1 picks -- Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis as bigs who will stretch the floor with shooting range, Andrew Wiggins as a super-athletic wing in the speed game of the evolving NBA -- yes. Simmons, no.

That makes his rookie season, for lack of a more delicate term, a laboratory. And that starts now, with the 76ers in the Utah Summer League beginning Monday after the Orlando Summer League opens Saturday and with both leading up to the annual Las Vegas Summer League extravaganza on July 8 that will also count Philadelphia among the participants.

It is impossible to know what to expect from Simmons on many different levels, including what Philly's roster will look like around him when the games start to count for real. Will Dario Saric be in uniform as the Sixers continue to hope they can lure the 2014 lottery pick from Europe in a move that would ease some of Simmons' ball-handling responsibilities? This much, though, is certain: Simmons has the most physical talent among rookies and will be in the best position to impact his team in every way, and so he comes out of the Draft as No. 1 on the 2016-17 Kia Rookie Ladder and the very early favorite for Kia Rookie of the Year.

1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Can Simmons Run The Point?

Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg debate if Ben Simmons can play point guard at the NBA level.

A lot of what happens to Simmons this season will depend on what happens to the 76ers this summer. For now, he is a distributor joining a roster that has very few players capable of doing anything with a pass, and maybe even fewer before long (depending on the outcome of Jahlil Okafor trade talks). But if Philly adds dependable scoring and/or any consistent perimeter threat via trade or free agency, Simmons' assist numbers go up ... and so do his chances for Kia Rookie of the Year. He should be able to rebound no matter what.

2. Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans

Draft Review: Pelicans Select Hield

The Draft Review crew reacts to Oklahoma standout Buddy Hield being selected sixth overall by New Orleans.

Yes, all roads in New Orleans go through Anthony Davis. But Hield could be the opening-night starter at shooting guard if Eric Gordon departs as a free agent. And even if Hield isn't, he will get the ball a lot as the Pelicans try to improve from finishing 14th in scoring and 16th in offensive rating last season. Chavano Rainier Hield has the added advantage of arriving as a 22-year-old with four seasons of experience at a major program (Oklahoma), making him one of the most NBA-ready newcomers.

3. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Inside Stuff: Brandon Ingram

Grant Hill speaks with the Los Angeles Lakers' Brandon Ingram to talk about the draft, Ingram's workouts and playing in the NBA.

Some teams think the 6-foot-9, 200-pound small forward will need at least one season of bulking up to make a real impact. Others say he is ready to do damage now. But no one questions Ingram's potential to become a dynamic scoring threat from the perimeter and at the rim, or that the Lakers have an obvious need in those departments and a point guard (D'Angelo Russell) who can deliver the ball to Ingram. At the very least, this sets up nicely for Ingram to immediately have a big opportunity.

4. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

College Highlights: Jamal Murray

Take a look at these college highlights from NBA prospect Jamal Murray.

Murray can play both guard spots, so he may be in the middle of everything in the Denver backcourt as a rookie, and maybe even right away. And if the potential as a 3-point threat starts to quickly become reality, he could have a very big role for the team that finished tied for 26th in 3-point percentage and has been searching for help there for years. Between the arrival of Murray, the addition of point guard Emmanual Mudiay in the 2015 Draft, Gary Harris' improvement (46.9 percent shooting last season) and swingman Will Barton developing into a candidate for Kia Sixth Man of the Year, coach Michael Malone suddenly has the good problem of a lot of options to sort through.

5. Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns

Bender's Impact On Suns

Matt Winer, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg discuss the impact fourth overall pick Dragan Bender will have for the Suns.

Lack of experience is the obvious problem, as the 18-year-old Bender is coming off a season with a relatively minor role with Maccabi Tel Aviv. But what an opportunity to stay on the court. Bender is a power forward joining a team that needs a power forward. He can be a good defender at 7-foot-1 to compensate for the lack of strength at 225 pounds, and, given his passing skills, does not need to score to impact on offense. The Suns added another power forward in the lottery, Marquese Chriss, making that a particular position to watch for the entire rookie class.

6. Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves

Dunn Lands With Wolves

Matt Winer, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg discuss Kris Dunn landing in Minnesota at number five.

At the risk of suggesting the Wolves won't dominate another rookie class, after Andrew Wiggins in 2014-15 and Karl-Anthony Towns last season, but Dunn is joining a team with Ricky Rubio. It's obviously not an insurmountable obstacle to Kia Rookie of the Year, but not having a clear path to big minutes is worth weighing. Either of Dunn beating out Rubio for the starting job or Rubio getting traded would give Dunn's candidacy a big boost. Any point guard who defends and will be passing to Wiggins and Towns from Day 1, though, is in the mix anyway.

7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Rooks: Joel Embiid

From Cameroon to the NBA Draft, Joel Embiid's long road to the NBA has followed a similar path as his idol Hakeem Olajuwon.

This is a good starting point. It's high enough to be a reminder that his one-and-done season at Kansas showed great potential ... but low enough to be realistic that Embiid is undependable until he proves otherwise after missing the last two seasons with injuries. Embiid could be in the top three or four heading into the regular season if he looks good in exhibition games... or out of the top 10 if he struggles just to stay on the court in October. From there, it will be a matter of how many minutes he gets in what remains a very uncertain big-man rotation in Philadelphia, with trades still possible.

8. Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors

Poeltl's Role In Toronto

Kristen Ledlow, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg talk about how Jakob Poeltl will mesh with the current Raptors bigs.

The presence of Jonas Valanciunas and the potential return of Bismack Biyombo, depending on what Biyombo does in free agency, are the obvious problems to Poeltl's ROY candidacy. But Poeltl is on the board based on offensive skills and a very good trajectory after big jumps each of the last two seasons at the University of Utah. If he gets much of an opening -- no sure thing with Toronto in win-now mode -- it's easy to see him becoming a Ladder fixture.

9. Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks

College Highlights: Taurean Prince

Take a look at these college highlights from NBA prospect Taurean Prince.

Prince could become the 2016-17 version of Denver's Nikola Jokic (albeit at a different position): a solid contributor on a team with bigger names, producing in several areas without posting gaudy numbers anywhere. Prince will defend, is projected to become at least a decent 3-point threat and maybe more, and has the benefit of playing four years at Baylor. Plus, playing a big role on a good team, if it happens, would look especially good during the actual season.

10. Denzel Valentine, Chicago Bulls

All-Access Interview: Denzel Valentine

Jared Greenberg talks with Denzel Valentine who was selected 14th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2016 NBA draft.

It's difficult to expect many minutes for Valentine with him spending at least part of the time behind Jimmy Butler at shooting guard (depending how much time Butler gets at small forward as well). Except that Valentine is versatile enough to give Chicago a three-guard alignment and play with the All-Star Butler. He's also experienced enough after four years at Michigan State to be as prepared as anyone to contribute right away. And he's talented enough to shoot with range, rebound from the backcourt and deliver the right pass. Valentine impressed a lot of teams in the pre-Draft process with his maturity and intelligence.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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