Ben Simmons is only 20 years old, but has more eyes on him than most rookies in recent memory. As the first pick in the 2016 Draft, the Australian has naturally been getting a lot of attention.
He will be going to Philadelphia for the 2016-2017 season to help carry the 76ers through their rebuilding era and become a great team once again. The Sixers’ last championship was in 1983, and with three back-to-back losing seasons the pressure is on the young Simmons.
The youngster has been presented with a wonderful opportunity, however, and his name could be put up alongside former 76er greats such as Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson and Andre Iguodala if he can take it.
— 2K ANZ (@2K_ANZ) September 2, 2016
But getting thrown into a losing team as a rookie is like being picked first on a JV team to play a scrimmage against the Varsity.
Take Anthony Davis for example. The 6’10 big man out of the University of Kentucky was as hyped as a player can be entering the Draft. He had just led his team to win a National Championship and was named the Most Outstanding Player, and went to New Orleans as the first pick of the first round. He would also get a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics – not a bad résumé so far for a 19-year-old kid.
Being pitched into a team like the Hornets (now the Pelicans) was enough to cool down the hot streak. Not making the playoffs and being included in the high-intensity peak time of NBA basketball might be the hardest part of being a phenomenal rookie on a bad team. And Davis did lock down a five-year, $145 million extension to his contract that started last season, so it’s not all that bad.
— Pelican Debrief (@PelicanDebrief) September 6, 2016
Although the team isn’t as competitive, it does put the rookie into a leadership position by default. There are a few positives that come out of this situation. The first is the leadership experience a player develops by claiming responsibility for his team’s success.
There is a learning curve to the game, and although most players come into the NBA with a high level of skill, they often are way behind when it comes to leadership and controlling the game. Players that don’t learn how to do this end up becoming supplementary players for the rest of their careers.
Getting picked by a losing team is also a humbling experience that can either make or break a player. There is a time that a player must decide whether they are content sitting on a big pay-check, or whether they want to leave a legacy. A few losing seasons puts this decision into perspective. LeBron James didn’t even make it to the playoffs in his first two seasons with the also-ran Cavaliers, but by his fourth he was in the Finals.
Joining a team that has undergone a handful of losing seasons is going to make winning the fans much easier. The Sixers were awful for the past three seasons and fans have a lot of hope in Ben Simmons. This is why Ben’s jersey has become one of the best-selling jerseys before he has even played an official game. According to Fanatics.com, his is the 10th-best selling jersey in the NBA, after (in order) LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Russell Westbrook.
Not a bad bunch to be listed behind
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) September 5, 2016
Simmons has already earned comparisons to LeBron and KD, and a video of him training together with James surfaced this week.
Ben Simmons working out with LeBron in LA 👀 pic.twitter.com/vhjJYOF0Oq
— BALLUPNBA (@BallUpNBA) August 30, 2016
The guy may have only had one season of NCAA basketball, but the footage of his exploits in the 2016 Summer League says it all. Whether that’s enough to turn the 76ers into a force again, though, remains to be seen.