Ben Simmons had some massive raps on him in the buildup to the 2017-18 season, but he’s managed to exceed expectations through his first three games.
We knew Ben Simmons was going to be good, but nobody was predicting Oscar Robinson-esque numbers to start his rookie season. After sitting out a year following the 2016 Draft, Simmons has entered the league providing the oldest fans of the NBA with flashbacks to a young Mr. Triple Double.
Despite their extra year of on-court experience, Simmons is already better than any of the 2016 draftees. He’s putting up historic numbers with The Big O being the only other player in NBA history to have started his career with three games recording 10+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 5+ assists.
Last 2 rookies with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in first 3 games: Ben Simmons and Oscar Robertson. ELITE company pic.twitter.com/KrbY1PDgHG
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) October 22, 2017
Simmons isn’t quite at the 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game levels Robinson was in his rookie year. Those numbers may never be beaten, but the Australian point forward is filling the box score himself averaging 15.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and six assists per game.
With 18 points and 10 rebounds in the season opener, 11 and 11 in the second and 18 and 10 in the third game of his career, the double-double has already become a staple of Simmons’ game.
Sixers coach Brett Brown, while aware of his attractive box score, is in awe of his 6-foot-10 forward’s athletic ability:
“You feel like immediately that the stuff he does on the floor is very unique. His size and burst of speed and his ability to get to the rim and take hits, all those things are kind of wrapped up more to me in athleticism.”
Along with that size and speed, his vision and passing ability creates shots for others. Already, opposing defenders are caught ball-watching in transition, allowing Simmons to find the open man on the perimeter. The below sequence is going to become synonymous with Simmons’ career.
Grabbing the rebound to start the fastbreak, Simmons moves up the court as his teammates spread the floor. As he approaches the 3-point line and winds up to drive, all five Celtics defenders have their eyes glued to him. Spotting Jerryd Bayless left just one step too open, he feeds him the ball for an easy assist in transition.
His length and finishing ability around the rim make him a constant threat. Should Simmons drive to the basket and get himself in trouble, a level of poise – normally reserved for only the best NBA veterans – allows him to pass out of a shot to a trailing teammate.
One area that teams will pick up on sooner rather than later Simmons’ lack of jump shot. Outside of two halfcourt heaves, all 40 of his shots have come in the paint. His 42.9% shooting isn’t flash, but the number of times he’s been able to pass out of a shot instead is making up for it so far.
After opening up at $3 for Rookie of the Year, a historic start to the season has already seen those odds drop to $2.50. An injury is all that will stop Simmons from claiming the award if he keeps up his 15/10/6 pace. Even if those numbers take a dip, Lonzo Ball looks to be the only other genuine contender so far at $3.75.
Today, Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers (0-3) visit the Detroit Pistons (2-1) as $2.38 outsiders, desperately searching for a season-starting W. Andre Drummond has been feasting on the boards, and his battle with Joel Embiid will be the feature of the game. But keep an eye out for Simmons and how regularly he’s switched onto the defensively-frail Reggie Jackson.
After it was a priority in the offseason, we could see Simmons hoist the first pull-up mid-range jumper of his career. If he’s a mid-range threat, the ROY award is all but locked in.