Ben Simmons goes up for the shot for Philadelphia in a clash against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ben Simmons goes up for the shot for Philadelphia in a clash against the Los Angeles Lakers. Chris Szagola

Simmons soars above rookie competitors

BASKETBALL: Respected sports magazine Sports Illustrated has already moved the goalposts on Ben Simmons' rookie campaign.

The young Aussie has been so sensational in his debut season he's no longer being compared to other first-year players in the NBA - but every one that's played in the past 10 years.

"If Simmons keeps up his current pace and maintains good health, Rookie of the Year won't do him justice,” wrote Ben Golliver, in his NBA Awards column for the first quarter of the season.

"He'll have a strong case as Rookie of the Decade, with 2011's Blake Griffin as his top competition.”

Former NBA rookie of the year Blake Griffin in action for the LA Clippers.
Former NBA rookie of the year Blake Griffin in action for the LA Clippers. Tony Gutierrez

Simmons is the only player since 1983 to have 400+ points, 200+ rebounds and 150+ assists in his first 25 NBA games.

In fact, since 1993, only Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have put up those numbers in the first 25 games of a season at any point in their careers

There's no doubt in 76ers coach Brett Brown's mind his star pupil has exceeded expectations.

"If you'd told me before the season began that ... you're going to give a 6'10” guy who has been a power forward his whole life the responsibilities of being the primary ball carrier and the point guard, you'd really step back and say well he must be doing something right,” Brown said during an appearance on The Woj Pod.

"I think that he has exceeded expectations.

Ben Simmons drives against Cleveland Cavaliers defender Ante Zizic.
Ben Simmons drives against Cleveland Cavaliers defender Ante Zizic. Tony Dejak

"When you just give him the ball and you just watch him, especially in early offence, his ability and his instinct to pass is elite.

"His ability to pass, his desire to make other people better, his vision line at 6'10”, his breakaway speed, those types of things have been elite.”

Despite his impressive start in the NBA, Brown said there are technical areas for Simmons to improve.

"He's really just scratching the surface to what ultimately he is going to be when we start talking about high level of finishing efficiency, growth of a free throw, the rebuilding of his shot, a comfort level of making and shooting an 18-foot jump shot, those things are still on the horizon,” said Brown, a former Spurs assistant who witnessed that program's ability to markedly improve a player's jumpshot.

Ben Simmons (left) talks tactics with Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown.
Ben Simmons (left) talks tactics with Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown. Matt Slocum

"There are lots of examples in San Antonio that come to my mind. You watch the evolution of Tiago Splitter's free throws or you watch the evolution of Tony Parker's even more and more consistent reliable pull-up.

"If you take the notion that when we were a part of the Kawhi trade, you bring Chip (Spurs assistant Chip Engelland who is known as the Shot Doctor) in and say what do you think his shot translates, can he emerge can he grow to be an NBA three-point shooter. There are lessons all over the place that Chip would have helped me with.”

Brown said Simmons' growth as a player will come down to how hard he wants to work and James had some advice after leading his Cavaliers to a recent win against Philly.

"Keep going!” James posted on Instagram. "Accept nothing less than being great! Anything else is not warranted.”



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