Ben Simmons has taken the NBA by storm. In the process, he has motivated the Australian basketball community to stretch their imagination, like never before.
Local sporting fans are predictably, enamoured with the Philadelphia 76ers rookie and the (hopefully) Hall of Fame caliber career that could unfold over the coming years. But what about those in the NBA, those who have no rooting interest in Simmons’ career? Do they feel the same way?
To get a snapshot of how the NBA really feels about Simmons, we asked a number of NBA coaches and players to explain the challenge of facing the young Australian on the hardwood.
What followed were a series of noteworthy explanations of Simmons’ budding greatness, and comparisons to some of the biggest names in NBA history.
Doc Rivers (head coach, LA Clippers)
He really reminds you of Magic early on. Magic grew into being strong but Ben came into the league strong. Ben is a moose. He’s a strong dude. The only time I have seen him play up close was when we played the 76ers in November and I was amazed with his power.
You have regular speed as power, and you have power as speed, and he has both. He’s going to be unbelievable.
It’s funny with guys like that, and it’s very similar to when I was a player. You had decide who was going to try and guard Magic. Do you put a big guy on him to see if you can block his vision? Do you put a little guard on him to see if you can mess with his dribble?
A lot of times, the bigger players don’t like the smaller guys. Nothing worked on Magic. With Ben, I think people will keep experimenting on how to guard him.
Alvin Gentry (Head coach, New Orleans Pelicans)
He’s not your typical rookie. He has a great feel for the game. His size makes it a real tough match-up. We try the best we can, in terms of keeping him out of the paint, but not many people have been successful in doing that.
We don’t look to stop a player like him, because he does so much and is so versatile, but we’ve got to make him work hard.
He’s a pretty unique guy, with his size and the way he handles the basketball. You don’t want to put the Magic Johnson tag on anyone because that’s a lot to live up to, but I think you can definitely make the comparison with Magic as a young player coming into the league.
He’s a great kid. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be a heck of a player in this league for a lot of years. Got a great feel for the game for someone as young as he is.
Scott Brooks (Head coach, Washington Wizards)
He’s definitely a challenge. Sometimes you think, as a point guard at 6’10”, that it’s a little unfair. You have to challenge him otherwise you give in to what he brings to the team.
He’s a tremendous player. He’s going to be an All-Star for a lot of years in this league.
As for a comparison, he has the size, the quickness and the strength like a LeBron. But you never know. That’s a pretty big set of shoes to fill. He’s definitely one of the most talented players in this league, let alone younger players in this league. He’s on his way to being an All-Star for a lot of years.
Joe Prunty (Interim head coach, Milwaukee Bucks)
His ability to stuff the stat sheet is impressive. There are a host of guys who he reminds me of. The first thing was always the triple doubles. Magic, at his size, could do those things. Coach Jason Kidd was another triple double guy.
With his size and ability to handle the ball, people compare him to Giannis Antetokounmpo. There are a host of people. That’s not for me to do. We’re not worried about that, as much as we are worried about finding a way to stop him.
One of the things is that you have to make things as difficult as possible. That’s one thing with great players. You have to make everything as difficult as possible because they’ve seen most of it.
In his young career, he probably hasn’t seen everything but you’re trying to make it as hard as possible with different looks. Potentially different schemes if you need to. There is no questioning how talented he is.
Jeff Hornacek (Head coach, New York Knicks)
Who do you want? The Magic Johnson comparison or do you want someone else? To have a kid that big, be able to push the ball like he does. When he comes at you, he’s got that strength, so all you can really do is try and get a charge from him.
If you try to veer him one way or another, he’s too big and strong. He’ll get through that. He makes passes. He makes plays. He’s having a great year. He’s coming in with a lot of confidence.
You need to have bigger guys on him because he just bounces off smaller guys. In this league, you can look back at the day when Magic had the size over guys. It’s a huge advantage. He really means something to their team.
Erik Spoelstra (Head coach, Miami Heat)
He’s unique. I try not to compare him to the typical names everybody would compare him to. He’s his own player. He’s very unique. He’s not 6’6”. He is 6’10” playing the point. He has great vision. He’s a tremendous finisher in the paint.
What stands out more than anything is his poise for a young player. He’s not going to just take what you are giving him. He’s going to take what he wants to get offensively.
Dwyane Wade (Guard, Miami Heat)
He has a great feel of the game. From his first game out here, you could see he is a basketball player. It doesn’t matter what he can’t do, let’s talk about all the things he can do. He’s a force on the basketball floor. He’s very very talented.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Guard, Milwaukee Bucks)
Ben Simmons is a great player. One of the best players in the East.
Matthew Dellavedova (Guard, Milwaukee Bucks)
It makes me excited for the national team. He’s having a great year. He’s really patient and definitely not playing like a rookie. The way he controls the game. It’s going to be exciting to see where his career can go.
He’s got everybody excited and even the guys over here. He’s just a unique player. That size, athleticism and skill. You can tell from the way he is playing that he knows how to play and that’s an underrated aspect of his game.
De’Aaron Fox (Guard, Sacramento Kings)
He puts up huge numbers in every statistic category. He makes his team better. You saw the difference between last year and this year. He gets everybody involved. He rebounds. He starts the break. He’s 6’10” and can guard all five positions. I feel like he’s making that team a lot better.
Jaylen Brown (Guard, Boston Celtics)
He’s a great player. What he can do with the ball at his size, with his handling ability and athleticism, I think that is fantastic. But also how he can pass, how he can find the open spots and open guys - that's what makes him special.
Kris Dunn (Guard, Chicago Bulls)
He’s another person, just like LeBron, who likes to get people involved. He can impact the game in multiple ways. He doesn’t just need to score the ball. He can facilitate and get everybody involved. He can grab rebounds. Each and every night he is close to getting a triple double. To have a guy like that is definitely special.
Taurean Prince (Forward, Atlanta Hawks)
His versatility is impressive. Being able to do everything. It’s hard to find players like that. The last one we had was LeBron. Being able to have those types of stats in all those areas he has. It’s special to see. I’m excited to see what type of player he is in three or four years from now.
John Collins (Forward, Atlanta Hawks)
He’s a 6’10” walking triple double. You know what I'm saying?
Yes, John Collins, we know exactly what you are saying!
Ben Simmons is a generational talent and those in the NBA are already predicting amazing things. Comparisons to Magic Johnson and LeBron James simply provide a glimpse into how great Simmons can become.