Julius Erving Is a Big Fan of Ben Simmons
The list of all-time Philadelphia 76ers legends is lean, but Sixers rookie point guard Ben Simmons has an opportunity to join that list, according to an occupying member.
"[Ben is] a once-in-a-decade, maybe once-in-a-lifetime-type player," Julius 'Dr.J' Erving said of Simmons on Tuesday after a statue in his likeness was unveiled outside of the team's practice facility in Camden. "He's able to make everybody better immediately each and every time down the floor; guys are spotting up or looking to cut or keying off of triggers that come out of his handling skills."
Simmons’ combination of size, speed, vision, IQ, instinct, and athleticism has made the multi-faceted forward one of the most impactful rookies that the league has ever seen, even without a reliable perimeter jumper.
"Sometimes it looks like he's got eyes in the back of his head," Erving said of Simmons, "because he sees and feels one of his guys making a run to the hoop or spotting up at certain positions. That's just a gifted player that we are very fortunate to have on our team."
Simmons’ average of 8.1 assists per game is fourth-best in the entire NBA; a league that is brimming with top-tier guard talent. His 11 triple-doubles are third behind only reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and four-time MVP LeBron James. Simmons also recently joined Oscar Robertson as only the second player in NBA history to record 1,200 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds in his rookie season.
Combined with the 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.7 steals that he adds per performance, Simmons has a slam dunk-case claim to the Rookie of the Year award, but his sights have been set higher.
"My goal is to be the best in the league," Simmons said back in August. "I'm not worried about other rookies, I'm worried about the guys at the top, and that's where I want to be."
With the bulk of his rookie regular season in the rearview, the top is exactly where Simmons appears headed.
Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.