By Anthony L. Cuaycong
Ben Simmons was a picture of confidence in the aftermath of the Sixers’ sixth straight victory yesterday and 10th in 13 matches in March. “I think so,” he said in response to a query on whether he had the Rookie of the Year award locked up. “The play I’ve had over the season has been pretty consistent. I’m doing some things that haven’t been done in a while.” Indeed; the triple-double he compiled against the Timberwolves was the 10th of his 2017-18 campaign. And given how he has performed of late, he looks bent on adding more to his tally, already the second highest for a first-year player in National Basketball Association history.
To be sure, Simmons isn’t a lock for ROTY honors. Donovan Mitchell is likewise taking the league by storm, with the Jazz matching the Sixers’ climb up the league standings in recent memory. That said, there can be no glossing over his historic output; only he, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson have amassed at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists as rookies, and he shows no signs of stopping. Consider this: He was just four points, five rebounds, and one assist short of putting up a triple-double in each of his last seven outings.
Significantly, there seems to be no ceiling to Simmons’ talents. Sixers coach Brett Brown sees him as a perennial All-Star even if he chooses to compete at the four spot, and with reason. Notwithstanding his glaring lack of a reliable outside shot, he possesses both the physique and the resolve to bang bodies in the paint. As far as he’s concerned, though, he’s best situated at the point, where his unique combination of height, handle, and vision enables him to make those around him better — make that much, much better.
At this point, the Sixers appear to be headed into the playoffs with homecourt advantage in the first round. Their marked improvement from their bottom-of-the-barrel showing during the Sam Hinkie Era is due to a number of factors, but this much is clear: Without Simmons’ stat-stuffing numbers, they’ll still be looking for respect and respectability. They have both now, and much of the thanks goes to him.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.