After sitting out the entire 2016-2017 season with a Jones fracture in his foot, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons might have already locked up his Rookie of the Year award.
Averaging 18.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 35.4 minutes per game, the 6'10" 21 year old has been simply sensational and is proof that "The Process" paid off.
Although he's had a number of stellar individual performances so far and has been incredibly consistent, Simmons' most jaw-dropping outing came in a 118-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. In that contest, he had 31 points on 8-of-16 shooting, pulled in 18 rebounds and dished out four assists, swatted two blocks and recorded two steals in 41 minutes. What really stood out is the fact that he went 15-of-29 from the free throw line.
That's right, although he struggled to convert the shots, he took 29 free throws, which was an NBA rookie record.
Being a point guard at his size has led to him becoming a nightly triple-double threat with the ability to fill the stat sheet with points, rebounds and assists.
Naturally, he has been compared to LeBron James, which is proof to how widely respected he already is.
In a recent feature, Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins detailed how Simmons has been connected to LeBron since he was 17 years old.
"At 17, perched on the side of a high school gym in Las Vegas after a session at the LeBron James Skills Academy, he felt a meaty palm on his shoulder. 'Tomorrow morning,' James told him, '6:30.' Simmons was dressed by four. As he did pull-ups in the fitness center at the Wynn hotel alongside James and Dwyane Wade, he kept FaceTime on his phone, so his best friend from home could watch. Simmons grew up wearing Wade’s Converse kicks, buying pairs in red, white and black. He studied James’s highlights on his iPad during class. He came of age with the Heat’s Big Three, who handed the rock to their 6'8", 250-pound kingpin and called it small ball," Jenkins wrote.
However, LeBron completely changed Simmons' life with one simple statement at the time.
“You have an opportunity,” James told Simmons early on, “to be better than me. But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work.”
Therefore, when he missed all of last year with his foot injury, Simmons kept those words in the back of his mind. “Part of his greatness,” Simmons said of LeBron, “is that he wants others to be just as great.”
James and Simmons matched up against each other for the first time on November 27 and the Cavaliers came out on top with a 113-91 victory. James was sensational, posting 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists while Simmons might have been a bit star-struck, posting 10 points, eight rebounds and two assists.
The two will presumably have many more opportunities to play each other, but at this point, it seems as though Simmons is the first player to come along in recent years who might have the potential to reach LeBron's level someday.
As a rookie for the Cavs in 2003-2004, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. As of right now, Simmons has the clear potential to surpass all three of those numbers over the course of the season. That should make everyone in the NBA community extremely excited as we are all witnessing the start to what could be an historic career.