It’s time for Philadelphia 76ers fans to get excited about the upcoming season.
After showing off his incredible skills on both end of the court last season, Joel Embiid is poised to emerge as perhaps the best young frontcourt player in the entire NBA. Veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick signed in free agency and will undoubtedly become an instant leader. A slew of other young players like Dario Saric are ready to take a step forward. Markelle Fultz was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft.
But perhaps most importantly, 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons is fully healthy and ready to make his NBA debut in what should be a productive rookie season.
After averaging 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists at LSU in his historically-dominant 2015-2016 season, the 6’10” Simmons will assume the role as point guard for the club and has sky-high potential to reach the level that other tall ball-handlers like LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo have reached in the modern and evolving NBA.
He confirmed that his health is perfect on Thursday.
"I've been playing pickup the last few days and it's been really good," he told reporters at a Sixers event. "I'm feeling great and I'm just ready to get out there.”
Simmons has never been shy about making big statements about the impact that he plans on making, either.
"My goal is to be the best in the league," he told Niall Sewing of ESPN at the end of August. "I'm not worried about other rookies -- I'm worried about the guys at the top, and that's where I want to be.”
While sitting out all of last season undoubtedly made the Sixers fanbase impatient, Simmons said that it allowed him to get better on and off the court.
"There was definitely [some advantages to having a year off]. I've had a whole year to grow and learn and focus on what I need to focus on. I think that whole year has really helped me," he said, adding he needed to continue to work on "learning the game, scoring, defence ... everything.”
Since the Eastern Conference should be wide open behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, the young core in Philadelphia might be able to shock the world if, and only if, they stay healthy.
If they all manage to avoid injuries, the Sixers could emerge as a dominant force in the coming years which would validate the organization’s strategy of sacrificing losing seasons for the greater good.