Ben Simmons doesn’t care about being the NBA’s best rookie. He has his sights set on something bigger.
Like the league’s (unofficial) best-player crown.
As he told ESPN.com’s Niall Sewang:
“My goal is to be the best in the league,” he told ESPN. “I’m not worried about other rookies — I’m worried about the guys at the top, and that’s where I want to be.”
Professional athletes are confident. That’s why they’re professional athletes. But this goal is nevertheless an ambitious one for a 21-year-old who missed his entire first season with a foot injury. He makes it seem as if he’s chasing LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, et al. immediately, during his debut campaign.
Which, kudos to him. Simmons’ skill set, at its peak, is almost every teams look for these days. He’s essentially a playmaking wing who should be able to switch across every position on defense. If he develops as an off-ball cutter, diver and shooter, he’ll have all the trimmings of a top-five star.
But Simmons, and the Sixers, have to see what happens first. These things are tough to peg when a player has a couple years worth of experience under his belt. Predicting an arc before he ever makes his NBA debut is impossible. Projections and sentiments ring hollow until we have a sample size, of any length, with which to work. And let’s not forget: Simmons’ case is complicated by the state of the Sixers. They have the makings of a playoff team, but they’re also trying to develop Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Richaun Holmes and Simmons, among others, all at once. That could add to the latter’s learning curve.
Whatever, though. Having goals is good. And Simmons has a gigantic one—a big-picture ambition that, if nothing else, proves he’s committed to playing the long game rather than solely looking at what’s in front of him.