Worth the wait

Manila Times - - SPORTS - Raffyrledesma@ya­hoo.com

HE Class of 2017 is one of the most loaded in re­cent mem­ory with sev­eral play­ers po­ten­tially evolv­ing to be­come fran­chise su­per­stars. Rook­ies Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Ta­tum, Josh Jack­son, and De’Aaron Fox have shown a glimpse of what they can do dur­ing the sum­mer league and the pre- sea­son. How­ever, there is one name that should be in­cluded in the list of fran­chise al­ter­ing rook­ies and that is Philadel­phia’s Ben Sim­mons, the No. 1 draft pick in 2016.

Since he missed all of last sea­son due to a foot in­jury, Sim­mons is tech­ni­cally a rookie and has be­come the fa­vorite to win this highly-cov­eted award. In three games in the pre- sea­son, he is av­er­ag­ing 9.7 points, 5.3 re­bounds, and 5.3 as­sists as the team’s point guard.

Usu­ally, a near seven- footer would be play­ing near the bas­ket on both of­fense and de­fense but Sim­mons de­fies tra­di­tional bas­ket­ball. Sim­mons’ skillset is a point guard, he can drib­ble up and down the court ef­fort­lessly, has the speed to out­run a lot of other guards, and the court vi­sion ( and height) to make the ex­tra pass. So far, his passes have been un­be­liev­able since he com­ple­ments that with his move­ment. He also plays with a very fast pace that I’m not sure if any­one his size or near his size can stay in front of him.

The only knock on Sim­mons is that while he fin­ishes well near the rim, his range doesn’t ex­tend be­yond 18 to 19 feet. In the pre-sea­son, you can al­ready see many de­fend­ers sag off him. His shoot­ing is some­thing he sorely needs to work on. If he be­comes a threat from out the three-point area, he will be al­most un­stop­pable.

On de­fense, his length and ath­leti­cism makes him a pos­si­ble de­fen­sive spe­cial­ist. He has the speed, lat­eral move­ment and bulk to de­fend po­si­tions 1 to 4, and prob­a­bly the 5 spot if the op­pos­ing team is play­ing small ball. Crit­ics say that he some­times plays lazy on de­fense but that is a habit that is easy to lose. Coach Brett Brown has been test­ing Sim­mons, mak­ing him de­fend the likes of Kyrie Irv­ing, get­ting him used to the speed of elite point guards.

After en­dur­ing years of heartache, the 76ers faith­ful now have some­thing to look for­ward to. The team has been tank­ing the past four years so they can get high draft picks. The Six­ers lost 253 games dur­ing that pe­riod and they traded away a lot of play­ers for more picks. They stocked the ros­ter with free agents and sec­on­dround picks since los­ing gave more chances in the NBA draft.

All this los­ing has trans­lated to top draft picks Markelle Fultz, Ben Sim­mons, Joel Em­biid, and Jahlil Okafor. Em­biid and Sim­mons have been side­lined with in­juries at the start of their NBA ca­reers and now they look healthy. To­gether, this team can eas­ily make the play­offs for the first time since 2012. With Sim­mons lead­ing the charge at the point guard po­si­tion, this is go­ing to be an ex­cit­ing team to watch. It was def­i­nitely worth the wait.

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