NBA General Managers believe the 2018 Rookie of the Year will be the Lonzo Ball prize. Their case for Lonzo, who is not a scorer but a playmaker, would make more sense if he was on a team of experienced finishers who he had to set up for double digit assists. But the Lakers core are babies still figuring out how to maximize their offensive potential. Ball himself is unfinished. He has a funky delivery on his shot and isn’t much of a scorer or a defender. Nor does he have lightening quick speed getting to the rim.
Ball’s NBA game in his first year is going to be a combo of ups and downs as he pushes the pace, delivers crisp, long passes and finds teammates. But his Lakers teammates are very young and still remain a work in progress. Playing hard is still an issue. The only inroads for Ball and the ROY award will be if he develops chemistry with Brook Lopez in pick and roll. Lopez can help Ball fast track his learning curve.
The most glaring problem for Lonzo being ROY is he is not the best rookie on his team.
Kyle Kuzma won the MVP of the Vegas Summer League and he has been the MVP of the Lakers exhibition games, leading the team in scoring. He can finish with his right or his left. Kuzma has an innate understanding of space, particularly his defenders moves when he attacks. He has in his offensive bag of tricks change of direction; he is a versatile scorer. A surprise to many is he has something that Ball lacks: charisma. It’s hard to take your eyes off Kuzma. So no matter how good Ball is, Kuzma is going to take votes away.
Further hurting Ball is Luke Walton’s Warriors like system where the point guard doesn’t dominate the play. The Lakers have creators in Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Tyler Ennis and Jordan Clarkson. Ball wasn’t a high usage player at UCLA, ditto for the Lakers. He is a less is more point guard. But less is more doesn’t win Rookie of the Year.
But Ben Simmons. Simmons will fill up the stat sheet. He can lead the break. He can beat his man off the dribble and finish spectacularly. He can grab rebounds. He has charisma in spades as his game is electric. The foot injury may have been the best thing for Simmons because he had a year of watching the league. Furthermore, Simmons can feed Embiid over and over again as well as J.J. Redick. The 76ers have finishers.
The 76ers are supposed to make the playoffs this year. They have a very intriguing team of front court athletes, a backcourt vet in Redick and a young scorer in Markelle Fultz. Brett Brown has already infused his team with defense. Last season Philly was 14th in defensive effiiciency. The inclusion of athletic Simmons who has something to prove should, if everyone stays healthy, push the Sixers to a playoff berth fight. Simmons will be rewarded as the missing piece.
But can he stay healthy? And what growing pains will he have to endure?
Being an athlete works in Simmons favor. Unlike Ball, when plays break down Simmons can use his first step and blow by his defender for the dunk and foul. His speed and his court awareness at the forward position makes him a matchup nightmare; it is his greatest strength.
Simmons is going to take all the pressure off of rookie Markelle Fultz. Kyle Kuzma is going to put all the pressure on Lonzo Ball, as in, why isn’t he better?
Of the teams who were in the lottery, most would trade what they currently have for a front court of Embiid and Simmons. Once they develop chemistry and Simmons learns how to defend without fouling, the Sixers are going to be a big problem in the East.
If injury free, Ben Simmons will be rewarded.
photo via llananba