The point guard position is perhaps the toughest position to play in the NBA. They are responsible for orchestrating the offense and setting up teammates all while having to contribute to the scoring load. There are also point forwards, who do very similar things. The biggest difference between a point guard and point forward is their size. Most traditional point guards range in height anywhere between 5’11” to 6’4”. Players such as John Stockton, Chris Paul, and Steve Nash fit your traditional point guard mold. Point forwards are much taller and can range anywhere between 6’6” to 6”11. Scottie Pippen, Lamar Odom and Larry Bird are often recognized as being point forwards, forwards who are responsible for creating offense for the team.
Then there are very rare players who fit somewhere in between. When asking any basketball fan who the best point guard in NBA history is, most will answer Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Magic Johnson is a 6’9” offensive maestro who holds career averages of 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists. He ran the point guard position for the “Showtime Lakers” between 1979 and 1991. However, Magic did run the center position in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, posting 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists.
Then there is LeBron James, possibly the best small forward of all time and the greatest passing forward in league history. LeBron is responsible for career averages of 27.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7 assists. LeBron James is a 6’8” giant who can set up a teammate for an easy bucket or can score effortlessly when called upon.
Both Magic and LeBron are remarkable players due to their ability to make any pass on the court and see over the defense. They can see things that players at 6’3” can’t. What makes Magic Johnson and LeBron James so special is also what can make Ben Simmons, the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, so special.
Ben Simmons stands at a remarkable 6’10” and weighs in at 240 pounds. He is built like James yet is an inch taller than Magic. Simmons put up 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his lone year at college playing at LSU. He also played in the Utah Jazz and Las Vegas Summer League, posting a combined average of 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game through 6 games before suffering his unfortunate foot injury that cost him his would-be rookie season. Simmons, like LeBron and Magic, is a very ball dominant player who can do a bit of everything while running the offense.
Earlier this year, Brett Brown, the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, stated that he plans to run Simmons at the point guard position. This brings up a big question: is Ben Simmons a point guard or point forward? His unique court vision and ability to orchestrate a team are definitely skills that fit the description of a point guard although his physique suggests that he is more of a forward.
Simmons is more than capable of handling the ball and creating for others, as supported by his assists numbers in college and summer league. He is very crafty with the ball and like Magic, seems to have an unlimited amount of flashy passes in his utility belt. He is also very athletic and can take it to the rim with force and score or kick it with ease to a teammate for an open 3-pointer, like LeBron.
Unfortunately, Simmons does have the tendency to force passes when he is hesitant to score. This creates a high turnover number and makes him less efficient. He averaged 3.4 turnovers per game in college and was outperformed in the efficiency category whenever playing the point guard in Summer League by Sixer point guard T.J. McConnell.
The talent and potential are certainly there for Simmons. Players with such astounding court vision, high basketball IQ, and playmaking ability are hard to come by, especially at his height. Simmons could join the ranks of LeBron James and Magic Johnson as being gifted playmakers with incredible height, strength and agility.
Will he follow in the path of Magic Johnson, the 6’9” all-star point guard, or will he follow in the path of LeBron James, the superb athletic point forward who runs his team’s offense? We will have to wait and see how he does being the point guard in his freshman season under Brett Brown to answer that question. Then we will discover if he is efficient enough to be the point guard of the future for the 76ers or if he will be the game changing point forward of the next generation.
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