Ben Simmons on being chosen as the #1 NBA Draft pick
After months of waiting, it’s finally official.
Ben Simmons became the second Australian to be selected with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, after the Philadelphia 76ers chose the LSU alumni.
“It was a weight of my chest, honestly,” Simmons said in a teleconference. “I’m relieved and I’m happy to be apart of the organisation.”
Simmons worked out with the 76ers days before the draft, after previously declining to work with any other squad. Reports indicated Philadelphia were sold on Simmons, but the Aussie says he still wasn’t 100 percent sure until his name was called.
“I assumed I was going to go there but I still didn’t know until they called my name,” Simmons responded when asked if he knew he was going to go to the 76ers.
“It was up in the air. They took a while to pick, so I was kind of confused but I’m excited.”
With the Sixers already possessing a talented front court, including Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, questions have been swirling over Simmons fit with the team. The first pick is confident he will be ready to contribute from day one as a versatile big.
“I think I’ll be a point forward,” Simmons said. “I spoke to them [Philadelphia] about that and they believe I can be that guy who can set plays up.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said that he views Simmons as a Draymond Green-type, and the Aussie is confident in that role.
“Definitely,” Simmons said, when asked if he is comfortable controlling the offence in a similar vein to Green. “I’m the type of player where you can put me in any situation and I’ll make the best of it.
“I love to handle the ball and facilitate. I think going into games, that’s one of the best things I can do for the team.”
Expectations will be high for Simmons, as it comes with the territory of being a number one draft pick. Simmons remains confident that he can make an impact from day one though.
“I think I can make an impact,” Simmons stated. “I want to win. So whatever works for the team and what’s best, that’s what I’ll go with.
“It’s going to take a lot of work and everyone has to be on board but I think we have a young team and I’m looking forward to getting there.”
One of the major concerns surrounding Simmons coming into the draft was his slim build, and how he will manage the physicality of the NBA game. Simmons dismissed those worries.
“I’ll be fine,” outlined Simmons. “I’ve put on a lot weight. I’ll get bruises and bumps, but it comes with it. I’ll be rookie, so I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be a new experience for me.”
Philadelphia has bottomed out over the past few years, and they managed to muster just 10 wins last season. Despite that, Simmons remains optimistic about the 76ers roster.
“I think there is a lot of talent,” Simmons added. “[There are] Guys who can really play and who know the game. I’m looking forward to getting there, it’s going to take a lot of work, but I’m willing to put it in."
“It’s a very young team, so going into a team like this, we have a lot of work to do. A lot of building to do and a lot of chemistry to make.”
Coach Brown has family ties with Simmons, as he coached his father Dave when he played with the Melbourne Tigers in the 90’s, and Ben is looking forward to being mentored under Brown.
“Dad’s known Brett for a long time,” Simmons said. “I’ve known him my whole life, since I was a baby. So I think that relationship is special, and he is a great person and a great coach.”
Ben will wear his father’s number 25 jersey, which is retired by the Tigers, and the NBL ties with his family remain strong.
“It means a lot,” Simmons said in relation to his NBL origins. “I used to go to games all the time at 'The Cage'. My Dad played for the Tigers and had his jersey retired, so I’ll definitely keep that number in the NBA.”
A pair of Simmons’ closest relationships exist in the NBA. His Australian counterpart, Dante Exum, who he explained he could not wait to go up against, and LeBron James, as Simmons is part of the Klutch Sports agency, the same body that represents the three-time NBA champion. Simmons is anticipating the battle though.
When asked who he is most looking forward to play one-on-one against the most, Simmons had a simple answer.
“Dante and LeBron,” Simmons said. “Those are the two guys I want to go against.”
The advice James has passed onto Simmons though isn’t lost on the Australian however.
“Just keep working hard,” Simmons said about the advice James gave him. “Set myself goals, which I’ve done and keep my focus. It’s a long season, so I got to prepare for it.”
The amount of effort James puts into the game is also a source of motivation for Simmons.
“It was amazing,” Simmons said of James’ Game 7 performance in the NBA Finals. “I was working out in Cleveland, so I saw how much work he put into it and how much he wanted to win.”
Simmons has been compared to a number of current and former NBA superstars, including James, Magic Johnson and Grant Hill. However, while Simmons has inspirations, he is out to make a name for himself.
“I think I play like myself,” Simmons said, when asked about the abundance of comparisons. “I think I have my own game. A lot of people are going to compare everybody to somebody. I believe I have my own type of game."
“There’s guys I look up to and try to work off. There’s guys in the league who have special skill sets that you try to add to your game, so everyone has their own special attribute that they have.”
Thank you to Cisco TelePresence and the NBA for facilitating incredible access during the NBA Draft 2016.