* * *
Ben Simmons has drawn some LeBron James comparisons. What superstar’s game do you see glimpses of in a rookie this season?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: My first instinct was to compare Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen to the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis for their length, their international backgrounds and their 3-point proficiency. But then I wondered if Porzingis qualified as a superstar and recalled an unfortunate moment 25 years ago when Christian Laettner chided a reporter (not me!) who asked him about similarities to Larry Bird. Laettner thought the comment was Caucasian-driven and said, “That’s pathetic.” So let’s go with Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr. and 2011 Kia MVP Derrick Rose for their shared athleticism and abandon in attacking the rim. Neither had/has much shooting range as rookies, both were given heavy responsibility with rebuilding teams, both come from strong family backgrounds, and so on. Presumably Smith will stay healthier because, well, who doesn’t?
Shaun Powell: I’m not getting into comparisons between a rookie and a once-in-a-generation player just yet. Seems a tad pit premature. However, what Simmons does have in common with LeBron and other greats is his composure. Let’s start there. Simmons feels like he belongs and it shows in his movement, his gait, his lack of sweat during crunch time and his confidence. He carries himself like a guy who wants the responsibility and the burden, even if he’s having a sub-par game. That’s what you want, and need, from a franchise player.
John Schuhmann: There are lots of comparisons to be made. Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma both have elements of Paul Pierce’s game, not explosive, but a variety of offensive skills. Dennis Smith Jr. has hints of Russell Westbrook with his explosiveness at the rim, while De’Aaron Fox could be a lefty John Wall with his end-to-end speed. John Collins has the bounciness and finishing ability of a DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard, while Jarrett Allen could be a Rudy Gobert-esque rim protector. It’s been a fun rookie class to watch.
Sekou Smith: Haven’t we learned our lesson with these comparisons after all the Lonzo Ball-Jason Kidd talk? It’s not fair to try and put Simmons in the LeBron James box out of the gate. I have been trying to come up with a player comparison for Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, who has shown me something since summer league. I’ve seen glimpses of a young Carmelo Anthony in Kuzma’s game (you asked for glimpses, right?). He’s got the confidence I love to see in a rookie and he’s certainly outplaying his draft position early on here. After all my bellyaching about unfair comparisons for rookies, I’ve just done my part to keep it going. But — my apologies to ‘Melo and Kuzma.