#PHILAfirst: Sixers Select Simmons

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

PHILADELPHIA - He was the number one player in high school, before becoming the number one prospect in college. Thursday night, Ben Simmons’ best-in-class pedigree followed him to the pros, as the 76ers made the dynamic Louisiana State forward the first pick in the NBA draft.  

Commissioner Adam Silver revealed the selection shortly after 7:30 PM EST, then greeted Simmons - outfitted in a Sixers cap - on the Barclays Center stage with a congratulatory handshake [hug]. The announcement put the 19-year old in the same company as Doug Collins and Allen Iverson, the only other top picks in franchise history.

“It’s amazing,” Simmons told ESPN moments after his name was called.  “I’m happy the Sixers chose me.  It’s a great city, and I’m looking forward to getting to Philly.”

Simmons, who was born in Melbourne, also became just the third Australian citizen to be taken first. Cleveland All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, and Golden State 11-year veteran center Andrew Bogut, drafted in 2010 and 2005, respectively, were the other two.  

In Simmons, the Sixers will be getting, first and foremost, an impressive physical specimen who boasts an uncommon skill set for a player of his build. The 2016 consensus National Freshman of the Year, Simmons stands 6’10” tall, and weighs more than 240 pounds. His broad shoulders and muscle belie the strength he showcased on the court in his lone campaign with the Tigers.  

Tuesday, Simmons was in Philadelphia, where he reported to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for a private individual workout. In addition going through a light, yet uptempo, series of on-court drills, he had the opportunity to meet with members of the Sixers’ ownership group and front office.  

Very impressive,” President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo said when asked Tuesday for what he observed from Simmons. “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.”

What you see,” head coach Brett Brown told ESPN Thursday morning, “is a...stud of an athlete. He is a perfectly sculptured type of basketball player.  You saw the physical side first.  I was really pleased with his shot. I think his shot is not broken, his form is fine."

Simmons ended the season fourth in the Southeastern Conference in scoring (19.2 ppg), third in field goal percentage (56.0 fg%), fifth in assists per game (4.8 apg), first in rebounding (11.8 rpg), and second in steals (2.0 spg). Another statistic that underscores his two-way impact is that he finished fifth in the country with 23 double-doubles. 

Of all the wide-ranging abilities that Simmons has displayed, passing might rank as his most intriguing and game-changing asset, especially when taking his height into account. Simmons proved to be a particularly dangerous facilitator in transition, as he generated almost a third of his assists in the open floor.

Now, Simmons will represent the latest addition to a promising young nucleus the Sixers have committed to developing over  the past three years.  

“Great people,” Simmons told Sixers.com when asked about his impressions of the franchise following Tuesday’s trip to PCOM. “It’s great to come in here, and be surrounded by great people. It’s a great organization.”

A left-handed shooter, Simmons has several ties to the Sixers. His father, Dave, and mother, Julie, got to know Brown in Australia, while Dave was playing for the Melbourne Tigers of the Australian National Basketball League. From 1989 through 1993, Brown was an assistant coach for the team. A second connection the younger Simmons has to the Sixers is that he and Joel Embiid overlapped for a season at Montverde Academy in Florida.

With the fate of the number one pick settled, the Sixers turn their attention to addressing the other two selections they have left on the draft board, 24th and 26th in the first round. The Sixers entered Thursday evening without a pick in the second round, due to a condition from a June 2012 draft night deal with the Miami Heat.

Check back with Sixers.com for continuing coverage of the 2016 NBA Draft.