There’s no denying that Ben Simmons is athletically gifted with size and strength seldom seen in so young a player.
He has an imposing presence that makes scoring seem easy when he’s in the paint, and he has a knack for rebounding. But his passing might be his most impressive ability.
In the Sixers’ 120-108 win over the Timberwolves on Saturday, Simmons put on a passing clinic, wowing the home crowd with his vision and precision.
He finished the night with his 10th triple-double of the season, with 15 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds. He’d notched the triple-double with the game still in the third quarter.
When Simmons was drafted No. 1 overall in 2016 out of LSU, he was highly touted as one of the most promising players in a long time. Because he played primarily as a forward, it was hard for anybody to imagine he would be such a willing and able distributor.
“I didn’t realize he was going to be as good as he is,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
This Ben Simmons pass is Magic-like 👀 pic.twitter.com/NKvv8Mvr0Z
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 24, 2018
Simmons is forth in the league in assists per game, averaging 8.0, and is third in overall assists with 566 this season, behind only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James.
Only 15 players ever dished out more than 566 assists in their rookie season. With two more, Simmons will pass Allen Iverson, who is 15th on that list with 567.
Simmons is on track to finish with roughly 640 assists this season, which would put him at 10th all-time for total assists in a rookie season, and in the top 100 of assists in any season overall.
A dime to The Homie. pic.twitter.com/4ZXy3xZv7C
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 24, 2018
“He’s a special player and I’ve told him this,” T.J. McConnell said. “He can change the game and the way the game is played. I have’t seen a lot of players like him. it’s pretty remarkable what he does. You’re in awe when he’s out there making plays.”
The Sixers rank third in the league in assists per game, and fourth in defensive rating. Brown says that is a rare and winning combination that is often powered by Simmons.
It’s no secret that Simmons is an elite passer. Day after day, opposing coaches have made note of his passing ability in shootarounds or before tipoff. Still, there hasn’t been much that teams can do to slow Simmons down.
“Give him the ball and play fast and let him pick apart gyms,” Brown said. “He really is elite in the role that we have him in.”
At this point, Simmons’ teammates have come to expect his laser passes and his precise movement. The Sixers aren’t surprised by his ability, they’re just waiting to see what else he can do.
“It’s been 72 games,” Robert Covington said. “I am not surprised. Half the time, I’m, like, what can he do next?”