Worth the wait

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Raffy Ledesma

The Class of 2017 is one of the most loaded in recent memory with several players potentially evolving to become franchise superstars. Rookies Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, and De’Aaron Fox have shown a glimpse of what they can do during the summer league and the pre-season. However, there is one name that should be included in the list of franchise altering rookies and that is Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the No. 1 draft pick in 2016.

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Since he missed all of last season due to a foot injury, Simmons is technically a rookie and has become the favorite to win this highly-coveted award. In three games in the pre-season, he is averaging 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists as the team’s point guard.

Usually, a near seven-footer would be playing near the basket on both offense and defense but Simmons defies traditional basketball. Simmons’ skillset is a point guard, he can dribble up and down the court effortlessly, has the speed to outrun a lot of other guards, and the court vision (and height) to make the extra pass. So far, his passes have been unbelievable since he complements that with his movement. He also plays with a very fast pace that I’m not sure if anyone his size or near his size can stay in front of him.

The only knock on Simmons is that while he finishes well near the rim, his range doesn’t extend beyond 18 to 19 feet. In the pre-season, you can already see many defenders sag off him. His shooting is something he sorely needs to work on. If he becomes a threat from out the three-point area, he will be almost unstoppable.

On defense, his length and athleticism makes him a possible defensive specialist. He has the speed, lateral movement and bulk to defend positions 1 to 4, and probably the 5 spot if the opposing team is playing small ball. Critics say that he sometimes plays lazy on defense but that is a habit that is easy to lose. Coach Brett Brown has been testing Simmons, making him defend the likes of Kyrie Irving, getting him used to the speed of elite point guards.

After enduring years of heartache, the 76ers faithful now have something to look forward to. The team has been tanking the past four years so they can get high draft picks. The Sixers lost 253 games during that period and they traded away a lot of players for more picks. They stocked the roster with free agents and second-round picks since losing gave more chances in the NBA draft.

All this losing has translated to top draft picks Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor. Embiid and Simmons have been sidelined with injuries at the start of their NBA careers and now they look healthy. Together, this team can easily make the playoffs for the first time since 2012. With Simmons leading the charge at the point guard position, this is going to be an exciting team to watch. It was definitely worth the wait.

raffyrledesma@yahoo.com

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