There has been no shortage of hype around Ben Simmons over the past 18 months, leading up to his No. 1 overall selection by the 76ers in June’s draft. Fellow LSU alum Shaquille O’Neal is among those very high on Simmons’ potential, telling CSN Philly at his Hall of Fame induction that Simmons’ game reminds him of LeBron James.
“He’s a LeBron-type player,” O’Neal said. “What I mean by that, LeBron does a nice job of making everybody else around him better —passing the ball, doing the small things —and Ben is that type of player.”
The comparison is both fair and not. Of course, it’s totally unreasonable to compare a 20-year-old to LeBron James before he’s ever played an NBA game, even if he is a heavily hyped No. 1 overall pick. Simmons’ game is still very raw and unpolished, and it would be a surprise if he stepped in and was a star from day one the way LeBron was in his rookie season. That’s added pressure Simmons doesn’t need.
But from the standpoint of Simmons’ actual on-court skill set, it’s not a ridiculous comparison. A player with power forward size and elite point-guard instincts who struggles with his shot, but has the size to score in other ways? That sounds about like what LeBron was when he first came into the league. Shaq didn’t say Simmons was as good as LeBron, just that they’re similar types of players, which isn’t entirely off-base. Whether Simmons ever becomes as good is another discussion, and an unfair one to have at this point in his career.