On the Beat: Simmons' Visit Cause for Excitement

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

PHILADELPHIA -  Regardless of whom the 76ers end up taking with the number one pick in Thursday’s draft, this much is clear: the top two projected prospects have considered it worth their while to meet with the team in Philadelphia.

Early Tuesday morning, Ben Simmons went through a private workout at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.  The versatile Louisiana State freshman forward is considered by many mock drafts to be this year’s top player.  His visit comes one week after Duke swingman Brandon Ingram, ranked second on most mocks, accepted an invitation to the Sixers’ facility.

I think it went well,” Simmons told Sixers.com after he finished his on-court exercises.  “I feel great, great shape.  Enjoyed the workout, so it’s exciting times.”  

“It was a chance to kind of put a platform out there for anyone that we might be considering at number one to have a final opportunity to see,” said Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo. Colangelo confirmed Simmons’ tryout during a media availability with reporters.   

Colangelo was one of several prominent figures to pack PCOM’s gym for Tuesday’s spirited and efficient workout.  Also in attendance were several members of the Sixers’ ownership group, including Managing General Partner Josh Harris and David Blitzer, Sixers’ special advisor Jerry Colangelo, head coach Brett Brown, and Rich Paul, the Klutch Sports Group founder who represents Simmons.  

Of specific significance Tuesday was that Harris was able to interact with and observe Simmons first-hand.  The two spoke in relaxed, casual fashion before and after Simmons took the floor.  Harris got a look at Ingram towards the end of May, when the ACC Rookie of the Year was featured in a New York City-based scouting showcase.

This was a chance for Josh to see Ben Simmons,” said Colangelo.  “We’re coming to the final stretch here of the draft process.  It was important for us, and we were excited to be able to get the opportunity.”

On the heels of the Sixers winning the draft lottery, Colangelo was consistent in expressing hope that the club would ultimately arrange a meeting with Simmons, who did not travel to Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine in May, and, prior to Tuesday, had not participated in a team-specific workout.  

Last week, however, marked a key turning point.  The Sixers front office and Simmons dined together in Cleveland, where Simmons did most of his pre-draft training.  Then came Tuesday, and the Australian’s stop in Philadelphia shortly after sunrise.  

Colangelo praised Simmons and Paul for making the workout happen, saying  “I think it...kind of speaks to the fact that Ben and his representative wanted to make sure that we were aware they want to be the number one pick, and would like to be considered here in Philadelphia.

“We wanted to make sure the timing was right, and we concluded mutually that this was the right thing to do.  I’m glad he did it. I’m glad he made that decision.”

Of the 50-plus prospects who have reported to PCOM since the Sixers began conducting pre-draft workouts in the middle of May, Simmons, Ingram, and Cal forward Jaylen Brown are the only three players to have gone through drills in a solo, rather than group, setting.  According to Colangelo, the Sixers asked nothing of Simmons that hadn’t also been asked of either Ingram or Brown.

“When it’s an individual workout like we’ve had with Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and now Ben Simmons, it’s a little different, it’s structured differently,” Colangelo explained.  “You don’t have the bodies to create two-on-two situations, three-on-three situations.”

More than anything else, the individual workouts have allowed the Sixers to get a stronger sense of the athleticism and shooting touch of a prospect. In the case of Simmons Tuesday, the Sixers saw plenty of promise.

“Very impressive,” said Colangelo when asked about Simmons’ physique.  “He’s all of 6-10 and 242 pounds. You’re talking about a substantial young man that is going to have an impact physically at this level almost immediately. He’s got an NBA body and he’s got some skills that are NBA skills, definable NBA skills. When you put that size and skill together, it’s generally a pretty good package.”

Averaging 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals during his National Freshman of the Year campaign at LSU, Simmons displayed a diverse skill set rare for a big man of his size.  Simmons’ height stood out that much more Tuesday when measured up alongside the tallest player on the Sixers’ roster.

Standing next to Joel Embiid, you can kind of get a feel for someone’s size and how they look in a uniform as opposed to street clothes,” Colangelo said. 

Simmons and the 7’2” Embiid chatted on the court for a few minutes before Simmons left PCOM.  The conversation was one of the cappers to a productive few hours at the Sixers’ training facility.

“It was helpful at the end of the day,” said Colangelo, “and I think it was most important for us to kind of close the chapter on any doubt that Ben or Rich would want to have Ben here in Philadelphia.”

“Great people,” Simmons said when asked by Sixers.com about his impressions of the team.  “It’s great to come in here and be surrounded by great people.  It’s a great organization, so I’m looking forward to Thursday. 

By the time Colangelo had finished Tuesday’s near half-hour long back-and-forth with reporters, much had already been accomplished.  Following Simmons’ departure, the Sixers oversaw another six-man group workout session.  Most important, though, was that by close of business, the Sixers could say that each of the candidates the franchise is considering for Thursday’s first pick - Simmons and Ingram, in particular - had made the effort to pass through town.

“I think more than anything,” Colangelo said, “they sense that things are about to change for the organization for the better.  We’re definitely an organization on the rise, and I think they feel it.”

Only a few more hours until we find out which player will join in.

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