Summer League is awesome. It’s a perfect blend of the professional and pick-up styles of basketball, with most players playing together for the first – and often last – time. For fans, the blend peaks in Las Vegas: you have parties, summer heat, NBA royalty casually milling about the gyms and a whole lot of young NBA talent champing at the bit to impress their coaches or get themselves a contract.
As you are probably aware, this year we had two Australians participating in Vegas: Ben Simmons and Thon Maker. They are two of the most hyped ballers of the YouTube generation, and this was our first opportunity to see if they have a chance of living up to the incredibly lofty standards we’ve set for them.
So how did they go? Not bad at all, actually.
Simmons played four games – coach Brett Brown rested him for a game, something we’ve never really seen before in Summer League – and aside from some cramps in game one, things went smoothly. However, according to some reviews, you’d never know it. It’s true Ben doesn’t take enough shots around the rim; his lack of a left-hand layup is both troubling and surprising, considering he shoots jumpers lefty. And yes, the absence of a jumper allows defenders to sag off him and limit his driving opportunities. But the amazing thing is, despite these pretty sizeable and obvious flaws in his game, Ben is the most complete player in his draft class, and set to become a nightly triple-double threat in his first season. If he can fix his weaknesses, the sky’s the limit. But what people tend to overlook is even if Simmons can’t work on his weaknesses he’s still going to be incredibly effective in the NBA.
The Summer League stats show Ben is on track. Of the 112 players who played over 100 minutes, Simmons was in the top 49% in points per minute, top 5% in assists per minute, top 21% in rebounds per minute, top 32% in steals per minute, top 25% in blocks per minute and bottom 46% in field goal percentage. Put this all together, and only DeAngelo Russell averaged a higher rank across all six categories. Let me repeat: despite visibly struggling at times and leaving many fans wanting more, Simmons was the second most complete player in Summer League. The ceiling is sky high, and Simmons could be going all the way up like Joe & Remy.
The guy simply produces. Some of his passes are just unfair – his Summer League highlights (below) are insane. I genuinely feel he may already be the best passer in the NBA (I’m a homer though, so take that with a grain of salt). Furthermore, his rebound-into-burst-mode-fast-break combo will lead to countless easy points in transition for the 76ers. Can’t we just sit back and enjoy the positives in this kid’s game instead of nitpicking the negatives? Ben is going to be fine.