SALT LAKE CITY – One thing is becoming obvious with Ben Simmons in summer league play. The No. 1 overall pick does not need to score in bunches to make an impact on a game. Simmons is showing that he can control games in a variety of ways.
Simmons filled the stat sheet once again on Thursday night. The rookie forward only scored six points on 2 of 8 shooting in an 86-75 victory over the Utah Jazz (see Instant Replay). But that didn't stop him from making his presence felt on both ends of the court. Simmons dished out a team-high six assists and collected seven rebounds. He also committed just one turnover.
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“I let the game come to me,” Simmons said. “Obviously, I threw a lot of assists. That's what they were giving me, so I took it.”
Unselfish play is quickly becoming a trademark for Simmons. He isn't the type of player to hang his head if he misses a shot. Simmons quickly shifts his focus to the next play and finds ways to get his teammates involved.
His coaches love his enthusiastic approach to getting the offense moving in other ways than simply throwing up shots until they start to drop.
“When you know you can impact a game in different areas, your attitude is at a different level,” Sixers summer league coach Billy Lange said. “It's not about Ben. He doesn't play like it's about him. It's about the team.”
How Simmons approaches the game has a positive influence on his teammates. He opens up the game for the other four players on the court and provides them with opportunities to get into a rhythm.
All 10 players who played for the Sixers on Thursday scored at least one field goal. Simmons was directly responsible for many of those baskets. He assisted on nearly 20 percent of the Sixers' 32 field goals.
“It's unbelievable,” Sixers guard Maodo Lo said. “He's extremely gifted with his size, his body and the things he's able to do on a court. His facilitating is extremely impressive. Playing with him is great because he finds you and you know you get open looks with him. It's really fun to play with him.”
For Simmons, generating those open looks is almost second nature because he excels at reading defenses. The Sixers dominated several key categories from points in the paint to team assists because Simmons anticipated openings in the Jazz defense and quickly punished Utah.
His philosophy is simple: Attack at every angle and dare the opponent to try and stop it.
“I take what they give me,” Simmons said. “Overall, every time I drove (against Utah), I was able to find somebody and I kept doing it.”
Focusing on Simmons' shooting means seeing only a portion of the overall picture. Sixers coaches are confident that his shot will improve with time and practice. Meanwhile, the attitude and work ethic he is bringing to the court is mitigating the influence, whatever is lacking in the box score.
Playing smart basketball is one area where Simmons is already ahead of the game going into Las Vegas this weekend.
“I don't know what other play he could have made that would show him to be more aggressive,” Lange said. “He was catching the ball at half court and going on guys. I actually felt his decisions tonight were quicker than they have ever been.”