Heading into this postseason, general consensus favored the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors in the East. Now, the East looks wide open, and the upstart Philadelphia 76ers may well have a shot at making an NBA Finals run.
There was never any question about the Sixers' talent. Doubters were more so concerned about their lack of postseason experience.
That didn't seem to come into play at all in the first round. Philly crushed the legitimately good Miami Heat, 4-1. The Sixers got great performances from Joel Embiid, Marco Belinelli, and J.J. Redick, but no player was more impressive than Ben Simmons.
The 2016 No. 1 overall pick looked completely poised. He averaged 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 9.0 assists per game. It's early, but it looks like Simmons could blossom into an all-time great.
Dwyane Wade, whose Heat fell to Philly, knows greatness when he sees it. The veteran two guard praised Simmons Tuesday.
"You knew from the first time that you seen him in Summer League that he was special," Wade said. "If you know basketball, you know talent, you know someone's special."
Wade went on to praise Simmons' ascendance throughout the season and his consistency, comparing him to LeBron James, Wade's former teammate in Miami and Cleveland. "It's like that guy in Cleveland; doesn't have bad games. The imprint they put on the game, it's more than scoring. He does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization."
The comparison will certainly flatter the Aussie, who has repeatedly mentioned how much he admires James. The respect is mutual. After they dropped dueling triple-doubles during an amazing game late in the regular season, the two shared an Instagram love fest.