Despite a 0-3 start to begin the season, Ben Simmons has been nothing short of spectacular. Playing as the primary ball handler, Simmons has averaged 16.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6 assists. He is only the 2nd player in NBA history to average at least 10+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists through his first three games. The other player to do so is Oscar Robertson. His most impressive outing to date was his most recent game against the Toronto Raptors, where he put up 18 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists.
Ben, like Brett Brown stated last year, has been the team’s point guard. He is bringing the ball up the floor and making plays in the half court. A 6’10 point guard is extremely difficult to handle. Opposing teams can’t stick their point guards to defend Simmons since it will be an obvious mismatch. They can’t place their power forward against him since Simmons will easily get by them with his tremendous speed and ball handling.
As a result, small forwards have been guarding Simmons. With Simmons having a 6’10 frame, there are still mismatches against him. This was very obvious in the game against the Raptors, where Simmons was being guarded by 6’7 DeMar DeRozan.
Simmons is only a piece of the Sixers “Big 3”, with Joel Embiid and a struggling Markelle Fultz completing the puzzle. Joel Embiid has been referenced as the 76ers best player. However, Simmons has a great chance to surpass him.
Embiid only played 31 games through his first 3 seasons and he is still on a minutes restriction as well as not playing back to back games. Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds through those 31 games. He was the focal point on the offense as the 76ers didn’t have the same level of talent last season as they do this season. The impressive numbers definitely could have been slightly inflated due to the team feeding him the ball on almost every possession.
Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot last season in training camp and was forced to miss his would be rookie season. He’s had no serious injuries in his past, which seems to suggest that he should remain relatively healthy for his career.
Embiid on the other hand could be considered “injury-prone”. He dealt with back issues while he was at Kansas, suffered a stress fracture on his navicular bone in his right foot before his rookie season, re-broke the same navicular bone in the same foot which caused him to miss the following season, and then after playing 31 games in his debut season, endured a meniscus tear in his right knee. Big men with back and foot injuries rarely get the chance to enjoy a long and healthy NBA career (ex: Bill Walton, Yao Ming). No one really knows if he will ever play a full NBA season.
Embiid has also looked fatigued at times when on the court so far this season, largely due to him being worked back into game shape. Simmons has looked great physically so far, running up and down the court, hustling after rebounds and getting back on defense.
Aside from health, the league is trending less and less away from the post, a key component of Joel Embiid’s game. Embiid is a strong defensive presence in the paint and can stretch the floor with his jump shot, but it also takes some time situating him in the post, something which he has complained about.
“I didnt think I got the ball enough in the post. Weve got to do a better job of finding me in the post”#Sixers pic.twitter.com/BXU6Xzg17d
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 21, 2017
The Sixers also struggled finding opportunities in the post for Jahlil Okafor. This is in part due to Brett Brown’s system. Coach Brown prefers to run-n-gun, a system in which Simmons fits into perfectly, as opposed to running the offense through the post.
Simmons is a multi-positional player. He can play the point guard or both forward spots. His playmaking and finishing ability, along with size, is highly coveted in today’s league. Players like LeBron, Blake Griffin and Draymond Green are flourishing and Simmons, as supported by his early season play, can certainly do the same.
Embiid is a rare talent. A franchise cornerstone if you will. He is someone you can build your team around. So is Ben Simmons. Both of these players have tremendous potential. If Embiid can stay healthy, he could be one of the best big men in the league. If Simmons keeps playing this way, he can be one of the best players in the league period.
Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports