It was the moment Sixers fans had been awaiting for 20 years.
On Thursday night, the Sixers made the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft and selected forward Ben Simmons from LSU.
Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for LSU last season as a freshman. Not only does Simmons score, he can also play point forward. He instantly gives the Sixers, who finished 10-72 last season, a new face of the franchise as they enter a new phase of the organization.
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Simmons had been the projected top pick at the start of this past college season, but ran into academic issues at LSU and the Tigers failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Duke forward Brandon Ingram entered the mix for the No. 1 spot with a smooth shot and intriguing potential at only 18 years old. The Sixers held a private workout for both. In the end, Simmons separated himself with his well-rounded skill set and strong NBA physique.
“He’s all of 6-10 and 242 pounds,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said following Simmons’ workout on Tuesday. “You’re talking about a substantial young man that is going to have an impact physically at this level almost immediately. He’s got an NBA body and he’s got some skills that are NBA skills, definable NBA skills. When you put that size and skill together, it’s generally a pretty good package.”
Head coach Brett Brown has been tied to Simmons before the 19-year-old was even born. He coached his father for five years in Australia and his brother later on. Brown also knew Simmons’ mother from her days as a cheerleader. Brown understands the Australian culture and the mindset of the athletes there.
“You just can’t make this type of stuff up,” Brown said of their connections on Wednesday. “To speak to him from my perspective is very, very comfortable. It’s very comfortable. He knows that should we draft him, he will have people that will help him navigate all this apart from to help him grow his game. The landscape of the NBA is difficult, and he will have mentors and people that care for a lot of things way more than just basketball around him should we draft him.”
Following the No. 1 pick, the Sixers would like to get into the top eight and have been linked in trade talks leading up to draft night. Bigs Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are most mentioned, including buzz of the Celtics' interest to make a trade with the Sixers for the third overall pick.
The Sixers also hold the 24th and 26th picks. They are looking to package both and move up into the mid-teens.