The New “Chosen One!”

Why The Philadelphia 76ers should make Ben Simmons their Number One Draft Pick!!!!

In the 4 years prior to the 2003 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers averaged 55 loses per season. That night in June their fortunes were changed for the better by selecting LeBron James with the No.1 pick. Two years later, they earn an NBA playoffs birth, after a seven year absence — two years after that (2007) they played in the franchises 1st NBA Finals.

Beginning this June, LeBron will again lead the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. This will be the 7th Finals of his 13 year career — OK, OK, so 4 of those finals & 2 NBA Championships came as the result of a 4 year detour with the Miami Heat, but that’s besides the point. The key being how one special player can change the direction of a franchise rapidly. In LeBron's case, two franchises.

In a few weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers will have an opportunity to select their own franchise changing player. Ben Simmons, the 19 year old “wonder from down under” will finally be available for the choosing. I say finally since the Australian teen’s basketball skills has been favorably compared to “the chosen one’s” for quite some time now. Like LeBron, Simmons possesses a point guard’s skills set, neatly packaged in a power forward’s body.

But a funny thing happened to Simmons on his way to NBA greatness — college basketball. Unlike LeBron, who went straight to the NBA out of high school — a rule change now prohibits high school players from entering the NBA draft until 1 year after their high school class graduates. Simmons chose the conventional route to the NBA. He could’ve opted to play a year professionally in one of the many pro leagues through out the world— but instead chose to play college basketball at LSU.

Despite exhibiting abilities that allowed him to average 19 points, 12 rebounds & 5 assists a game, Simmons’ one & done year at LSU was considered a missable failure. His team under performed so dreadfully that they couldn’t qualify for one of the 68 spots that makes up the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

When a player of Simmons’ basketball pedigree fails to lead a team to a tournament birth — speculations fly & questions demand answers. Media critics across the country began tripping over each other trying to supply the latter. He can’t shoot, he’s not a leader, & he’s too unselfish were some of the criticisms used to describe Simmons. Some were even questioning his ability to get along with teammates because of a strange personally trait he was rumored to have.

Once Simmons & Brandon Ingram both decided to enter the NBA draft this spring, the debate about who should be picked No.1 shifted into overdrive. Ingram, the lanky 6'9 sweet shooting freshman forward out of Duke University, served as the yin to Simmons’ yang for the critics. Unlike Simmons, Ingram did managed to lead Duke to the sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament before being eliminated. His 7'4 wing span, super skinny frame & smooth jumper conjures up many comparisons to another onetime one & done freshman, Kevin Durant.

With NBA coaches recently putting a greater emphasis on floor spacing & 3 point shooting, Ingram should turn out to be a very good pro, maybe even a star. But for my money, Simmons will have the greater impact immediately as well as on the future of the league down the line.

Listed below are the 5 reasons I feel the Sixers should pick Simmons No.1 :
1) The LSU experiment failed: Simmons shouldn’t have had to go to college to play ball in the 1st place, much less at LSU. The one year rule protects NBA GM’s from making bad decisions based on a players potential. It gives them a one year free look, while colleges get to exploit these players as well. This process works for everyone but the players. Simmons’ game was NBA ready out of high school. Whichever team drafts him, will find out that he will immediately become their best player — that year at LSU was not necessary. However, with the rules in place, Simmons & his parents should’ve chosen a school that handles these one & done scenario successfully. Imagine Simmons at Kentucky with coach Cal or even Duke with coach K — I doubt that there would be any debate about who the No.1 player is. LSU’s coaching staff was too ill equipped to handle Simmons star power.
2) Simmons is a scorer: the critics keep harping on Simmons lack of a jump shot. The kid realizes he needs to improve this area of his game & is currently working hard at it. (Google: Simmons jump shot video) But many great players have entered the league with jump shot issues, Barkley, LeBron & Blake Griffin to name a few. Simmons with his size, quickness, ball handling ability & touch around the basket will have no problems scoring at the next level.
3) Basketball IQ: Simmons is an exceptional passer, so much so that many basketball analysts think he could possibly play point guard at the next level. He’s at his best in transition, snatching a rebound, immediately looking for runners & cutters to the basket as he handles the ball on the fast break — this is the part of his game where he compares to LeBron the most.
4) Familiarity: Sixers Coach Brett Brown coached Simmons’ father Dave for 4 years in Australia as a member of the Melbourne Tigers & remains a dear family friend. He’s followed Ben’s growth as a player over the years & would know just how to highlight his strengths while protecting him from the areas of his game he still needs to work on.
5) Star Power: I believe Simmons is a star ready to erupt on the NBA landscape, just as I did the 1st time I saw a young LeBron play on a ESPN televised high school game. After floundering for so many seasons since the departure of Allen Iverson, Philadelphia could use a healthy dose of some star power. We need that buzz, that juice, that energy back in our arena & our fan base. Print media needs someone special to write about, sports talk radio needs someone special to talk about. Who knows, add Simmons with a finally healthy Joel Embiid, some outside shooters arriving from trades & we could have something that’s been missing for long time around here — Hope!
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