The excitement surrounding the NBA Draft this Thursday is taking over as the NBA Finals fades in the rearview mirror and the future of the league is upon us.
The Philadelphia 76ers hold the first overall pick and will hope their selection can help raise them from the terrible mire they have wallowed in for the past three seasons. Similarly, the L.A. Lakers, who have the second pick, are searching for a superstar to help ease the loss of Kobe Bryant to retirement.
LSU's Ben Simmons alongside Duke's Brandon Ingram have long been considered the top two names in the 2016 draft class and it's become increasingly apparent through reports that Simmons is bound for the Sixers on June 23.
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The 19-year-old Australian recently signed with the same Rich Paul owned Klutch Sports that acts as an agent for LeBron James. After watching King James drive the Cleveland Cavaliers to their inaugural NBA title, Simmons can see some similarities between himself and the Cavs No. 23.
“I try to play with an edge like that, too,” Simmons told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday following the Foot Locker Media Day for Kids. “Because a lot of people say things about me and my character. People say a lot of things about LeBron but he just keeps having a good mentality and grinding.
"That’s what I try to do, proving people wrong by what I do on the court. LeBron’s been like a big brother to me, watching me play and giving me pointers on just little things. I really look up to him. Seeing him with that championship, that’s what it’s all about.”
Seeing LeBron drag his side to an NBA championship was inspirational for even a couch-ridden fan, let alone an aspiring athlete about to enter the league.
Simmons - who led all college forwards in rebounds and assists, but ranked 109th in three-pointers - has also been very vocal about his desire to be the literal number one man and he's excited about the possibility of playing in Philadelphia as a result.
“A lot of things can happen. I’ve gotta wait until Thursday. Hopefully, I do go No. 1. It’d be a dream come true.”
“It’d be a blessing to be the No. 1 pick,” Simmons said. “Philadelphia has great fans and they opened me with open arms when I was there. … My (goals) would be to be Rookie of the Year, to win a championship. Most of all I want to be the best player I can be and put my team in a position to win.”
The Sixers will have a whole host of frontcourt options if Simmons is indeed selected and they are expected to try and move one of Jahlil Okafor - selected third overall last year - Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid.
As for the player he’s looking forward to playing against most, Simmons quipped, “LeBron. Definitely LeBron.”