Simmons soaring: ‘This kid’s an all-timer’
BEN Simmons appears to be closing the Rookie of the Year debate after being named NBA player of the week.
The 21-year-old Philadelphia 76ers star averaged 18.5 points, 10 rebounds and 8.8 assists in his team's four wins last week to secure the Eastern Conference award and further make his case over Utah's Donovan Mitchell for ROY honours.
Simmons, who sat out all of last season with a broken foot, has played a key role for the 76ers, who have won 14 successive matches and are third in the conference with two games left to play in the regular season.
Yet the ambitious Australian says he has his eyes on an even bigger prize than the Player of the Week or even Rookie of the Year honours.
"Championships," Simmons said. "I want to be the Defensive Player of the Year ... MVP. There's a lot of accolades I want to get, but I ultimately want to win a ring."
It comes as three of the most prominent voices in US sports media - Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons and former player Jalen Rose - spoke glowingly about Simmons' impact and his team's play-off chances.
Cowherd called Simmons an "all-timer" during a radio segment where he listed the eight players that changed the NBA in the four decades he had been watching: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Steph Curry.
"There is a young player who I believe would make my great eight into a great nine. And you'll be surprised in Philadelphia because it's Ben Simmons," Cowherd said.
"When I watch these great young players - (Russell) Westbrook, (John) Wall - I'm awed by their talent. But I think, 'I wouldn't want to play with them'.
"Ben Simmons is different. No, he can't shoot. But Magic Johnson couldn't either for the first two years he was in this league.
"You're never going to rely on Ben Simmons to be your leading shooter. But he'll be dropping 23 a night like Magic Johnson - and on another night's giving you 17 assists ... and on other nights, after an injury, he'll move into the four spot or centre and play that too. This kid's an all-timer.
"Ben Simmons will not have to be a great shooter. Shooters are going to want to play with him. That's the greatness of Magic, the greatness of LeBron and it's the greatness of Ben Simmons. It's an incredibly inclusive style."
While making a case for why the 76ers could win the Eastern Conference, ringer.com editor-in-chief Bill Simmons said Simmons had "gone to another level".
"What a dramatic turn," Simmons said on his podcast.
"We went from thinking they were going to win 42 games or less to now backing them to make the NBA finals. And here's the case for it: the seas have parted for them from a seeding standpoint.
"It looks like they're going to be the No.3 seed, which means in round one they're going to play Miami or Milwaukee. They'll be favourite in either series.
"Then round two they'd play the winner of Boston and either Miami or Milwaukee. Boston has been just decimated ... I just don't see a road map to make the Eastern finals without your two best players (injured duo Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward).
"More importantly for (the Sixers) Toronto and Cleveland have to play in round two. Philly in round three could either be hosting Cleveland ... or playing Toronto. Toronto would have home court advantage. Philly would be the underdog but not by a ton.
"Beyond all of this, Philly is playing great. Ben Simmons has gone to another level and when they have Embiid back they're going to have two of the best 15 players in the league.
"They have a bench now ... Saric is playing great, JJ Redick has been unleashed. And honestly if I had to bet my life on it, I can't believe I'm saying this, I think they might be the safest pick."
Rose told the Jalen and Jacoby show Simmons was reminding him of a certain Los Angeles Lakers star point guard, and declared Philly could make the Eastern finals.
"They're really good," Rose said.
"They have two franchise-changing players in Joel Embiid, who gives you the points and the rebounds ... and Ben Simmons, who is playing like a modern-day Magic Johnson.
"I'm really careful about passing out praise and doing comparisons ... but for him to be able to play at that level and lead the team with Joel Embiid out of the line-up ... they are legitimate."
The 76ers complete the regular season with a trip to Atlanta (Wednesday) and a home game the following night against the Bucks. They will likely need to win both games to hang on to the third seeding.