ESPN’s NBA analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson believe that after an unexpected 12-month hiatus, Ben Simmons is ready to be the next superstar.
The Philadelphia 76ers’ resident Aussie missed his entire rookie season last term with a broken foot, which was incredibly slow to heal. It was a setback for the number one pick of the 2016 but now he aims to make an impression on a vastly improved Sixers roster.
The versatile 6’11” combo guard-forward can play any position on the floor, which can cause major headaches for opponents and it’s no surprise that he is listed as a heavy favourite for Rookie of the Year.
“I think the future is incredibly bright for him,” said ESPN’s Mark Jackson to assembled media during a conference call.
“What he does on the basketball floor, how he impacts the game, his potential of impacting the game in a variety of ways, to me he could be the next superstar. It’s about individual success and team success.
“They’ve got great young talent, and I think that the main thing for him is staying healthy, and we know what he can do when he’s healthy.”
To Jackson, the sky is the limit for the 21-year-old, Melbourne native, who averaged 19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds in his sole year with LSU. He believes that while he might find the going tough to start, he can find his own way to showcase his vast versatility on the floor, reminiscent of Lamar Odom, who Jackson compares Simmons to.
“The guy that I probably would compare him to, and I think he’s, with all due respect, has the potential of being even better because of his size, is Lamar Odom,” Jackson revealed.
“Lamar Odom did it from the small four position, where Ben Simmons in 2017 legitimately is comfortable handling the ball and initiating the offense. But I think he has superstar written all over him.”
Despite the potential tag of ‘superstar’, which Jackson’s ESPN colleague and current USA national team coach Jeff Van Gundy echoes, he believes that he will probably have to play second fiddle to Joel Embiid.
“I loved Simmons’ ability to impact the game with the rebound and the pass, like a hard combination to find, a guy who can handle, pass and rebound,” Van Gundy explained.
“Should be an outstanding defender with his length and athlete six. Right now he takes a little bit – notoriety wise takes a little bit of a backseat to Embiid, but his development is every bit as important as Embiid’s development, and hopefully he has great health, and I’m sure his shooting will continue to improve, but his talent is unquestioned.”
The Sixers open their NBA account on Thursday in the early hours against the Washington Wizards.