The Real Deal: Ben Simmons could be the best Australian to ever play in the NBA

"Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Keith Allison

It might be easy to look at Ben Simmons with rose-tinted glasses coming off the back of another 20-point game (and a single assist short of another triple double), but the signs are there. This Melbourne-born Philadelphia 76ers star could one of the greatest Australians to ever set foot on an NBA court.

His latest feat – the third consecutive 20-point game – featured 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Sixers crushed the Minnesota Timberwolves 149-107. It was further indication the power forward has all the attributes to be a household name for years to come.

Ben Simmons’ – by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Of course, it’s early days to start comparing him to Australian great Andrew Bogut. Time will tell if he can be ranked amongst other NBA greats from the southern hemisphere like Patty Mills and Luc Longley but the number one overall draft pick of 2015 is coming of age after a season out through injury. Described as Australia’s first legitimate basketball superstar, Simmons achieved an impressive feat recently when he became the NBA’s first player to hit 400 points, 200 rebounds and 200 assists, averaging over 15 points per game.

Challenged by Sixers coach Brett Brown to be an elite defender in order to earn more free throws, last season’s rookie of the year is earning his stripes as a leader in the team. And he’s only getting better. After becoming the first player in the modern era to score five triple-doubles in a rookie season, the increasingly confident Simmons said, “I want to be the greatest to play the game. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I believe I can get there.”

Indeed, SEN basketball expert Nigel Purchase has stated the Philadelphia 76ers forward is the best Australian athlete ever produced. He’s not the only one to praise Simmons’ abilities, with commentators noting his strengths as a great passer and excellent point scorer. It’s clear the 2016 All-American is behind the Sixers rising up to the sixth favourite for the NBA title in 2019 with the latest basketball odds putting the Philadelphia franchise at 16/1 behind the Bucks and ahead of the Thunder.

The “complete package” according to US sports journalist Stephen A. Smith, Simmons is continuing to showcase the qualities that saw his rookie season end with impressive 15.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 8.2 APG averages. It isn’t easy when the spotlight’s on you having come out of LSU as the most hyped rookie since LeBron James. But the player’s maturity – something he already possessed in his first full season – is growing, underlining his capacity to be the complete player so many believe he can be.

There is still improvement to be made in his long-range shooting but as Nathaniel Friedman writes in GQ, “it’s scary that Ben Simmons can still get better”. That said, his athleticism must not be underestimated and as some quarters might moan at his reluctance to shoot from range his strengths, as Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson says, puts the Sixers in a “position to win night in and night out”.

The Pick and Roll Team

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The Pick and Roll was founded in 2014, and continues to strive to be the best platform for you, when it comes to Australian basketball news and features.

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