When was the last time we saw a rookie this broadly excellent? Does Ben Simmons evoke anyone besides the most obvious—and most desirable—comparison? Having already submitted a handful of Bronesque stat lines for our consideration, Simmons did it once again in last night’s win over the Hawks: 19 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists.
Every time you see Simmons slashing into the paint you can count on something interesting happening. A sweet little pocket pass, a lob up to Joel Embiid, a kick-out to Robert Covington on the arc. Or he’ll just finish the dang job himself—he’s already fifth in the league in scoring in the paint, pouring in 13.8 points a game. Where young LeBron might have taken that extra dribble and cannonballed past his man for a dunk, Simmons thus far looks committed to a comically crafty arsenal of deceptive layups and floaters off both hands. Best of luck to future generations of NBA defenders in their quest to guard a 6-foot-10 dude who can lead the fast break, and who can, at any juncture during his drive—even just one step past the free throw line—effortlessly pick up the ball and float it home. Even his average layup is a treat to watch:
Nikola Jokic scratches this itch, too, but there’s something specifically satisfying about seeing a human that large handle (what is for them) a tiny ball with such fluency and touch. Just palming it for one-handed passes, flicking in into the hoop in high soft arcs—you know, all that nice finesse stuff. Alternatively here’s a big honking dunk to wreck your shit:
More of that, too. The concerns so far are obvious and agreed-upon—starts with “J” and rhymes with “Thumper”—and it’s not hard to envision his field goal percentage, 53 percent, eventually surpassing his putrid 55 percent shooting from the stripe. His surprisingly deft touch around the basket suggests that his broken jumper is more the result of bad form—and thus fixable over time—than some inherent discombobulation. Even if it stays broken, he should easily skate for a while by being so transcendently good at everything else there is to do on a basketball court. Last season I was looking forward to the distant future where every team engineered a starting lineup of five Giannii. It turns out it’d be wise to have some Simmonses on there, too. Joel Embiid, for one, seems very grateful to have his.