Ben Simmons: The next big thing?
It has been far from an easy time to be a Philadelphia 76ers supporter. Their team have been the subject of ridicule as they navigated through one losing season after another, trying to stockpile high draft picks in the hopes that eventually they will finally have enough young talents who would develop, turning the squad into one of the league's best.
It's a strategy that has proven successful in the past for the Golden State Warriors, but the 76ers' failure has been partly justified as being proclaimed "the process", which has been anything but easy.
Top picks such as Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor did not pan out as expected, while Joel Embiid has struggled with injuries over the past few years, significantly limiting his minutes. He did have sort of a breakout season last term in the 31 games he did manage to feature in, but the 76ers' collective failure as a team made them a laughing stock across the league.
But after a series of questionable draft picks and front office decisions, they finally hit the jackpot when they selected Ben Simmons out of LSU with the first pick in last year's draft. Well, he has been a transcendent player for the Sixers this season thus far.
Having sat out his first year through a devastating ankle injury, many were unsure what to expect from the Australian this year. So far though, he has quickly emerged as a star - justifying the expectation as last year's first pick.
Simmons is already beginning to put up numbers as a rookie that we are rarely used to seeing from players other than the biggest names in NBA history. Through 17 games, he has averaged 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
Numbers like these are associated with legends like the great Magic Johnson, who he shares an uncanny resemblance to in terms of playing style.
Court vision, ball handling and finishing ability as a big 6ft 10inch figure makes him a nightmare matchup for opposing teams. He's already being compared to LeBron James, who just like the 21-year-old, took the league by storm upon his arrival in 2003.
The scary part about Ben Simmons is that he can get so much better and his ceiling is almost non-existent. As of now he does not have a jumpshot which defences respect, but still manages to shoot a respectable percentage of 51.3% from the field - a variety of acrobatic layups, thunderous dunks and unorthodox floaters with either hand.
He struggles for accuracy from the free throw line as well, only shooting 56.6% from there. From this, you can see there are many areas where he can improve and it is frightening to imagine the havoc he would wreak on opponents with a working jumper.
Simmons is on pace to become the Rookie of the Year and many have even projected him to become an All-Star in his maiden season. Alongside the enigmatic Joel Embiid and a range of capable shooters such as JJ Redick and Robert Covington, the 76ers have quickly become must-see TV this season. Their record of 11-8 to start the season is evidence of their resurgence with supporters finally taking solace in the fact that the proclaimed process is gradually beginning to pay off.
With time and further minutes between them on court, the Sixers will hope they can become the new perennial contenders in the Eastern Conference thanks to the meteoric rise of Simmons.