No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons ends Sixers' ‘painful process,' gives ‘reason for hope'

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The Ben Simmons era in Philadelphia has begun. 

The months of anticipation leading up to the NBA draft came to an end Thursday night. As expected, the Sixers selected Simmons first overall (see story). Simmons called the moment when he heard his name announced “surreal.” 

“Now I can get to work,” he said.

And now the Sixers can get to work reshaping their roster with the 6-foot-10, 242-pound forward as the centerpiece. After three years of compiling random pieces to create a squad, the Sixers are carefully constructing a foundation for their future. The addition of Simmons represents the conclusion of a 47-win, 199-loss chapter. 

“He impacts everything,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. “I think he’s going to impact the outlook for the organization. He’s going to impact the outlook for fans. Once again, this has been a long, painful process. I think he gives them reason for hope.”

Simmons had been projected to be the top pick for most of his freshman year at LSU. Duke’s Brandon Ingram entered the mix towards the end of the season. Simmons admitted that being selected first overall was important to him.

“I always want to be the best player,” Simmons said. “They selected me at one, so it means a lot. They believe in what I can bring to their franchise.”

Simmons’ overall package as a basketball player set him apart from others in the draft. Brown predicts Ingram will become “great,” but Simmons had too many tools to pass up. He averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game last season. Brown will start the season using Simmons at the four spot, and he can also play the point forward. 

“We just felt for us that Ben’s versatility and Ben’s physicality combined with how we feel like we can grow his skill package, especially shooting, is going to make him different, very different, if we can do some of those things we just said,” Brown said. “It was a decision that we’re comfortable with and personally I look forward to coaching him.”

Simmons had been compared to LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Draymond Green for his versatility. There are other bigs in the league who can run the floor, but Simmons does not like to compare himself to anyone. 

“I believe I’ve got my own style of play,” Simmons said. “Being a 6-10 point guard, I’m able to push the ball up the court and start breaks a lot quicker than most big guys.”

Simmons comes to the Sixers with a long familiarity with his new coach. Brown has known Simmons’ family for nearly 30 years, dating back to his coaching days in Australia. Simmons remembers meeting Brown when he was 13.

“He’s known me my whole life,” Simmons said. “He told me to keep working, so I’m very comfortable going into a situation like this.” 

Brown has said that he will help Simmons navigate his way through his first NBA season in a new league and new surroundings. Another person who Simmons has been turning to is James. Simmons signed with James’ agent, Rich Paul, and has been receiving words of wisdom from the NBA Finals MVP.

“Focus and keep your family close and make sure you have your goals ahead of you and be smart about it,” Simmons said of James' advice. “It takes time to develop, but as long you put in the work, you get what you put out.” 

The Sixers have high expectations that all of Simmons’ work will pay off. His addition affects the team both on and away from the court. Simmons is the most recognizable face in this draft class and already has been featured in commercials and late-night television programs. 

“I think that Ben comes with quite a bit of fanfare and notoriety,” Colangelo said. “The appeal of this organization and the brand is going to be affected in a positive way. … He’s a star figure in his own right at his age and I think if he does the things that are required from a basketball standpoint to continue to improve and get better and be the best possible player, the sky’s the limit for him. That means good things, positive things for this organization. Basketball, business, everything is being affected in a positive way.”

Thursday marked the start of what the Sixers hope will be a long, successful career for Simmons in Philadelphia and a new phase of the organization. 

"I think from a package standpoint," Brown said, "when you weigh it all up, this is a fantastic night for 76er basketball."

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