Fans in Philadelphia have endured countless seasons of pain and suffering but that may be coming to an end.
The time for excitement has come and with the Sixers’ arsenal of recent top draft picks ready to test themselves in the weaker Eastern Conference, things are looking up.
Ben Simmons was taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft but missed his entire first season in the league after sustaining a broken bone in his right foot.
Thanks to another finish at the bottom of the standings, Philly landed the number three pick in the draft and after a trade with the Celtics, obtained the number one pick in which they selected point guard Markelle Fultz.
A month after the draft, the 21-year-old Australian was cleared for full basketball activity and finally hit the court for his first preseason game against the Grizzlies.
76ers coach Brett Brown has long stated Simmons would be the team’s point guard and his vision and creativity was on full display from the outset.
Despite a 110-89 Grizzlies win, Simmons was hailed for his ability to run the point.
Grizzlies coach David Fizdale had identified Simmons’ unselfishness as one of his greatest attributes pregame but after seeing him up close, took his praise to the next level.
“Oh my God. I don’t want to see that for the next 15 years. That kid, they’re not talking about him enough,” Fizdale said.
“The way he moves with the ball, his ability to see the floor, the way he can get places on the floor — once he gets confidence in his shot where you really have to close out all the way to the three. Wow. He is a big-time talent.”
Simmons checked out of the game at the 9:28 mark of the third quarter after playing 22 minutes. After scoring the opening 4 points for the 76ers inside of 70 seconds, he turned his attention to distrubiting the ball and did so with ruthless efficiency.
The LSU product finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. All of this while committing only one turnover.
“I love his breakaway speed, his ability to get to the rim, the pace at which he plays,” Brown said. “Tonight Ben, you could see, was sort of an advanced rookie in my eyes.”
His play also drew praise from teammates.
“He is very versatile, offensively and defensively. He’s a monster on both sides of the ball. He doesn’t even realize how good he is just yet,” teammate Robert Covington said.
The ultimate goal for Simmons will be to carry the 76ers back into the playoffs but the rookie of the year trophy is also within his reach.
Simmons was voted as the runner-up in an annual survey of the league’s 30 general managers with 24 percent of the votes. But he finished well behind Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball (62 per cent).
Adding further motivation, he only ranked fourth for the question “which rookie will be the best player in five years”.