Ben Simmons looks better than his Rookie of the Year season and the Philadelphia 76ers are "definitely" in the hunt for the NBA Finals, according to former Chicago Bulls star and three-time champion Luc Longley.
Simmons and the 76ers announced themselves in 2017-18 as Brett Brown's highly rated young team reached the Eastern Conference semi-finals following years of pain.
After sitting out a year due to a foot injury, Simmons – the number one pick in 2016 – averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds during the regular season, while averaging 16.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists in Philadelphia's first playoff campaign since 2011-12.
Simmons has continued where he left off this season with a triple-double and double-double to his name already, and fellow Australian Longley – who was part of the Bulls' three-peat alongside Michael Jordan between 1996-98 – heaped praise on the 22-year-old.
"Simmons delivered on a lot of his promise [last season]," Longley said in an interview with Omnisport. "Then had some great playoff experience against Boston. Knowing his competitive spirit, that would've driven him mad [losing that series].
"I watched every 76ers game I could get my hand on, just like half of Australia and the world, not because of [Joel] Embiid who is great but because of Simmons and how exciting he is to watch.
"This season, he looks better. He looks very focused defensively and we're only early into the season. That excites me. He talks about wanting to be an All-NBA defender. Lots of guys have breakout years in their careers and it looks like he is putting pedal to the metal now after a breakout year."
With Markelle Fultz – the top pick in 2017 – hampered by injury and form last season, Simmons was Philadelphia's primary point guard to great effect.
Fultz, however, is back this season and in the 76ers' starting line-up, though Longley does not believe it will impact Simmons.
"That's the great thing about Ben, he is so versatile," Longley said. "Having great players around him, will only make him better.
"People have talked about worrying about whether he doesn’t have the ball as much or take away his shot but I don't think matters to him. I've heard Ben talk about being a player, not a position. That team is built that way. If Fultz can find his groove, that will work in Ben's favour in Philadelphia."
With Simmons, Fultz and All-Star Joel Embiid at the core of Philadelphia's plans, 76ers head coach Brown has made no secret of his desire to feature in the NBA Finals.
The 76ers were flying high last season before they were stopped in their tracks by Eastern Conference rivals the Celtics, who won the series 4-1.
Asked about Brown and Philadelphia's ambitions, Longley added: "They're definitely in the Finals mix. I think Boston and themselves are the best teams in the east. That's one team away from the Finals.
"They have a lot of work to do. It's fun to watch a young team like that figure out how to be consistent and we watched it last year. They figured it out last season. They got the acid test in the playoffs and they were found wanting a bit.
"Watching a young team take that lesson on the nose and figure out how to get better and apply it through an 82-game grind and get to the playoffs in the right shape then beat someone like Boston.
"That's just a fantastic storyline they're writing for themselves. There's no reasons why they can't do that. There's a lot that has to go right. It's different to let's say the [Golden State] Warriors, who have done it three times and trying to stay stimulated. Philadelphia are a highly stimulated team which makes them stimulating to watch."
19 de enero 2019
|For Real Madrid, nothing is impossible - Solari refuses to give up in title race|
|Inter 0 Sassuolo 0: Spalletti´s side labour at sparse San Siro|
|Marshawn Lynch will continue playing ´if it works out´|
|Simeone excited by improving Atleti|
|Jones ´cautiously optimistic´ over Farrell ahead of Ireland clash|
|Sarri questions Chelsea motivation after Arsenal surrender|
|Emery urges Arsenal to find balance after downing Chelsea|
|Koscielny hails Arsenal fighting spirit in Chelsea win|
|Pellegrini: It was not a good idea for Arnautovic to play|
|Iran v Oman: We´re not satisfied yet, says Al Mahaijri|
|Carbery sends Munster through and ends Exeter´s lingering Champions Cup hopes|
|Dyche defiant despite offside call|
|Hasenhuttl rates Everton win as Southampton´s best|
|Benitez looking up the table after Schar inspires win over Cardiff|
|RB Leipzig 0 Borussia Dortmund 1: Witsel restores six-point cushion|
|Swansea City 1 Sheffield United 0: McBurnie punishes wasteful Blades|
|Cardiff sign Sala from Nantes for club-record fee|
|Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0: Lacazette and Koscielny fire Gunners to rousing derby win|
|Huesca 0 Atletico Madrid 3: Dominant Atleti keep pressure on Barca|
|Rashford arguably league´s best striker with Kane out - Solskjaer|
|Hafeez plays steady hand as Pakistan punish Proteas´ patient approach|
|Klopp: Exceptional Salah would have scored even more up front!|
|Suspected ´serious´ Verratti injury leaves Tuchel with mixed emotions|
|We needed to rediscover our best form - Ramos pleased for Real Madrid fans|
|City bought Guardiola four full-backs! - Mourinho aims dig at Man Utd transfer policy|
|Valverde ´not frustrated´ amid De Jong & Vela links|
|Championship Review: Leaders Leeds beaten at Stoke as Villa end Hull run|
|Bournemouth rode their luck, admits Howe|
|Barca boss Valverde calls for clarity on RFEF rules|
|Bears rack up 107 points in routing Enisei en route to quarter-finals|
|Paris Saint-Germain 9 Guingamp 0: Verratti injured for rampant champions|
|Solskjaer: I´ll remember managing United for the rest of my life|
|Palace win a ´massive relief´ for Liverpool boss Klopp|
|Salah fourth fastest to 50 goals in Premier League history|
|Real Madrid 2 Sevilla 0: Solari´s side take over third spot|
|Watford 0 Burnley 0: Wood denied winner by contentious call|
|Liverpool 4 Crystal Palace 3: Salah reaches 50 thanks to Speroni shocker|
|Newcastle United 3 Cardiff City 0: Schar double moves hosts out of bottom three|
|Southampton 2 Everton 1: In-form Saints steer clear of trouble|
|Bournemouth 2 West Ham 0: Wilson and King sink Pellegrini´s men|
|Manchester United 2 Brighton and Hove Albion 1: Record-breaking win for Solskjaer|
|Pelicans star Anthony Davis out for one to two weeks with sprained finger|
|Verratti hobbles off for PSG against Guingamp|
|Brook ponders next move after missing out on Khan|
|Mick Schumacher: The Ferrari academy graduates who made it to F1|
|Thailand v China: Lippi aims to overcome War Elephants and reach last eight|
|I deserved red card, says Wolves boss Nuno|
|Mick Schumacher joins Ferrari Driver Academy|
|Jared Goff not worried about Superdome noise: ´When it´s loud, we love it´|
|Rooney urged Rashford to run at defenders|
|Former Springbok Lambie retires from rugby aged 28|
|Spygate: EFL confirms 11 clubs have made contact about Leeds|
|When it´s loud, we love it - Goff ready for New Orleans noise|
|Wolves 4 Leicester City 3: Jota hat-trick drama piles pressure on Puel|
|´Asparagus´ Zverev joins frustrated Djokovic in round four|
|Lowry takes Abu Dhabi title at the last after ding-dong Sterne battle|
|Rooney: United should go "all out" for Pochettino|
|Djokovic frustrated by ´unnecessary´ Australian Open floodlights|
|Jordan v Vietnam: Park expecting ´aggressive´ encounter|
|Serena and Halep book blockbuster, Osaka won´t throw in the towel|
|Brady: Mahomes has had ´spectacular season´|
|Halep not intimidated by Serena anymore|
|Farrell´s Six Nations preparations hit by thumb injury|
|Pogba confident Manchester United can reach top four|
|Alexander-Arnold embodies Liverpool spirit - Klopp|
|Stoinis shoots Stars to Melbourne derby victory|
|A-League Review: Glory held in stalemate as Sydney close the gap|
|DeMarcus Cousins ´felt like a kid on Christmas´ in Warriors debut|
|Alexander-Arnold signs long-term contract at Liverpool|
|Pochettino eyes Messi-esque role for Alli|