For quite some time now it was a formality that forward Ben Simmons would be the first overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft; it was just merely a matter of what team would get the opportunity to obtain his services. After only managing to win 10 games this past season, it wasn’t a guarantee that the Philadelphia 76ers would get win the NBA’s Draft Lottery. But the ping-pong balls bounced in the favor of the Sixers and unless you were stuck in a cave, you knew which direction that they were intended to go in with their selection.
Days prior to the NBA Draft, the 76ers made their intentions public when they formally announced that they would use the first overall pick on Simmons. Simmons who is a native of Australia, became a prep-school sensation as he began to be compared to Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James due to his passing skills, rebounding, and floor vision. Simmons was the top prospect coming out of high school and he ultimately decided on playing collegiately for the LSU Tigers.
Simmons was a one-man show at LSU as he averaged 19.2, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists en route to becoming the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year. At LSU, Simmons gave LSU star power which included him having 21 double-doubles. And at 6’10″, those rebounding and passing skills were what had NBA scouts drooling about Simmons, while the 76ers are hopeful that they have found their savior.
To call the last three years for the Sixers pathetic would be a compliment. In that span Philadelphia has managed to win just 47 games, while 10 NBA teams managed to win more contests than that this past season alone. Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie would always tell the fans and media alike in Philadelphia to “trust the process” as he was notorious for spending high picks on injured players, and trading players for more draft picks. This philosophy didn’t make Hinkie a very popular man on Broad Street, and when he resigned this past April, the Bronx cheer went up in the City of Brotherly Love.
Former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo was brought in to be an advisor for the 76ers and you knew that he would be restoring law and order due to his past track record of building franchises. Colangelo would bring in his son Bryan in to be the Sixers new president of basketball operations after he has spent time as the general manager of both the Suns and Toronto Raptors. And once the Colangelos were awarded the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, they were off to the races.
Now the Sixers have the chance to have one of the biggest front courts in the NBA with each player having a different skills. Center Jahlil Okafor provides the 76ers with a scoring presence from the low-post as he averaged 17.5 points and 7 rebounds this past season as a rookie. Power forward Nerlens Noel is a shot blocker that can run the floor while also grabbing rebounds. And once you put that with the skills of Simmons, Philadelphia is big up front, and they have the potential to defeat you in different ways.
The 76ers did shop both Okafor and Noel leading up to the NBA Draft to see if there were teams interested in their services. But with teams balking at the Sixers asking price, Noel and Okafor will remain in Philadelphia to form a nucleus with Simmons. And once you factor in center Joel Embiid who was the third overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft by the 76ers, but yet to play due to injuries, there is size galore in Philadelphia if everyone can remain healthy.
For 76ers head coach Brett Brown, the arrival of the Colangelos and Simmons has to be a sigh of relief. Brown has been the Sixers head coach for the last three years, but he has been given a reprieve due to the fact of how Hinkie was running the team. And for the first time as an NBA head coach, Brown now has talent to work with.
Simmons represents the Sixers first, top pick in the draft since Allen Iverson in 1996 and that turned out pretty well for Philadelphia. Iverson led the Sixers to the NBA Finals in 2001 which was also his MVP year, while he led the league in scoring on four occasions during his time in Philadelphia. Simmons might not publicly display the swagger of Iverson, but make no mistake about it that he is a star in the making, while he should also clean up on endorsement deals in the Philadelphia area.
Simmons doesn’t come to the NBA completely polished as he must work on his perimeter shooting as he only attempted 3 shots from behind the three-point arc at LSU, but it is a part of his game that he will work on.
As Simmons is set to embark on his professional career, the most important thing that he must do is to not pay attention to the white noise in Philadelphia. The fan base in Philadelphia is desperate to see the Sixers turn things around as they haven’t made the playoffs in four years, while they haven’t won the NBA Championship since 1983. And this fan base will expect an overnight miracle which isn’t fair to Simmons. But one thing for sure is that the arrival of Simmons will end the 76ers run of picking in the top-five of the NBA Draft as this team has already improved from the end of last season without one practice together.