Offseason Roundtable | Taking Stock of Simmons' Present, Future
For the latest installment of our 'Offseason Roundtable' series, Sixers.com's Brian Seltzer, Sixers Radio Network announcer Tom McGinnis, and 97.5 FM The Fanatic host Devon Givens share their thoughts on the significance of Ben Simmons' recent contract extension.
World Class Talent
Ben Simmons roars away from The Center and through Philadelphia traffic in a sports car like he navigates an NBA court - with power and finesse.
An elite, world class athlete, Simmons just turned 23 years old - literally. His career is building like rising action in a great novel.
The Simmons Story starts with a formidable preface. The son of a professional athlete in Australia moves to the United States to eventually become the no. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The first two chapters of Simmons' novel have allowed him at times to numerically rub statistical shoulders with two all time legends, in the Big O (Oscar Robertson) and Magic (Johnson). These initial chapters include Rookie of the Year and All-Star status.
One of our leaders.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) July 16, 2019
This new contract for Simmons is, by definition, an extension. It begins at the start of the 2020-2021 NBA season, thus providing Simmons a continuity that hasn’t quite been there at the start of his pro career.
Given his skill set, athleticism, and passion, the upside for Ben Simmons is incredible. So even though he motors 94 feet of the basketball playing surface as quickly as any player in the game, the ultimate drive for Simmons and his teammates would be a slow cruise down Broad Street, one atop a float with tens of thousands of adoring fans celebrating a 76ers NBA Championship.
All-League Defensive Potential
After a busy offseason that has presented plenty of fresh faces, expectations are high for what the 76ers might be able to do on the defensive end in the upcoming 2019-20 season.
But while the newly acquired Al Horford and Josh Richardson bring strong defensive reputations to Philadelphia, the driving force behind the team’s defensive potential could come in the form of a returning player - Ben Simmons.
Armed with immense overall basketball talent, Simmons deserves attention for his defense as much as anything else. Standing at 6-foot-10 at the point position, the Australian gives the Sixers so much flexibility as a defender, due the team's switching philosophy.
He can guard all five positions, depending on the opposition's personnel. This could eventually land him on one of the league’s All-Defensive Teams along with teammate Joel Embiid, a All-Defensive Second Team representative.
“I feel like he has a chance to be an elite multi-purpose defensive player,” Brett Brown once said before Simmons had even played an NBA game.
Thanks to his size, lateral movement, and quick hands, Simmons is very comfortable when presented with the task of guarding a smaller player in space, as he can disrupt the flow of an offense from the head of the defense. Sometimes, he is then able to create his own offense with a steal that ignites an easy scoring chance in the open floor.
At the start of a game, Simmons often times is assigned to check the best wing or guard on the floor. With the current collection of players projected to be in the starting lineup this fall, that could once again remain the same.
“Defensively, of course, that's where we're going to hang our hat," 76ers general manager Elton Brand said this summer. "We should be one of the top defensive teams in the league, in my opinion."
Whether it’s guarding one of the elite scoring wings in the playoffs, chasing a playmaking guard all over the floor while making things difficult with his size and length, or banging down low with a big and anticipating his moves, Simmons seems to have all of the necessary tools to help fulfill the goal that Brand has set.
When a player signs a contract extension, it's impossible not to immediately start thinking about the future, right? More specifically, the player's future, and how his ongoing evolution could ultimately affect the fortunes of the team he plays for.
There are many aspects of Ben Simmons' game that, as Tom and Devon have pointed out, are better than exceptional. His vision and passing touch rank right among the best in the NBA.
Combine those skills with his rare physical gifts and tools, and you've got a package of talent that comes through the league probably about once or twice a generation.
No. 1 Pick
All-Rookie First Team
Rookie of the Year
Two-Time Rising Star
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) July 16, 2019
With Simmons just 23 years old, age, to me, still represents the most compelling subplot to his story. He is still so young, and subsequently has the potential to undergo more growth, despite his already-heady accomplishments.
When it comes to Simmons' performance on the offensive end of the floor, I'm of the big picture mindset. There were important areas this past season in which he showed encouraging signs.
Simmons' overall offensive efficiency went up. Most important, he experienced a noteworthy bump from the free throw line, both in terms of shooting percentage and attempts.
Another development that shouldn't be overlooked? The offensive wrinkles involving the Aussie that surfaced during the postseason.
Simmons had opportunities to do some more things off the ball, and his frequency in pick-and-roll plays, as either the ball handler or roll man, increased.
These days, we live in a world in which there is only one kind of gratification - instant. But as Ben has shown throughout his first two seasons, with patience comes progress.
Simmons is now secured for the long-term. Plenty of even better days figure to be ahead of him. It should be fascinating to continue watching his ascent.