In the Warriors’ (13-4) 124-116 win over the Sixers (9-7) on Saturday night, Ben Simmons showcased his talents against the defending champions, which nearly led the Sixers to one of the most unlikely of upsets in the early part of the NBA season.
In the first quarter, he split two defenders and soared with the ball clutched in his left hand for a one-handed slam. Later in the game, Simmons took the ball from the top of the key, performed a slurry of crossovers on defender Omri Casspi, and spun towards the basket for an easy layup.
These were the types of plays that drew so many scouts to the 6-foot-10 prospect out of LSU on draft night in 2016. These were also the types of plays that made fans feel like they were looking into a time warp, as if LeBron James was 11 years younger again and taking the league by storm.
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What Simmons is doing in his rookie campaign this season is almost unheard of. He’s averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. He’s already registered two triple-doubles and nine double-doubles in just 16 games. He’s one of just three rookies in NBA history to average seven assists and seven rebounds per game, the others ended their careers as all-time greats in Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.
“[Ben’s] something I’ve never seen before as far as really playing point guard at that height and that speed and his strength,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said after Saturday’s game. “You can tell he’s an Aussie too because he doesn’t mind getting into some scuffles or showing his feisty side. That’s going to bode well for the Sixers down the line.”
In the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz on Monday, Simmons had a career-high 27 points on 13 of 24 (54%) shooting. After shooting just two of nine (22%) in the first half, he shot a much more efficient 11 of 15 (73%) in the second half to close out the win for the Sixers. Sixers coach Brett Brown sung praise for the rookie, who’s really coming into his own as the season has progressed.
“You’ve all seen Ben kind of kick back and take off,” Brown said. “He’s always ready to run [the ball] down somebody’s throat. He did that a few times [tonight] but now he’s now started to use jump stops and gather himself. When you look at LeBron over his career, those straight line [drives] don’t always work. You have to come to some semblance of order and balance. … He did a great job at coming to some jump stops [tonight].”
Simmons currently leads all rookies in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. The Rookie of the Year Award is his to lose at the moment and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. If he keeps playing this way, he could potentially become the first Sixers rookie to be selected to an all-star team since Luke Jackson did it in 1965.
The Sixers next face the Portland Trailblazers (10-7) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will air locally on Comcast SportsNet.