76ers

An interesting discussion about why Ben Simmons' ceiling is so polarizing

An interesting discussion about why Ben Simmons' ceiling is so polarizing

For the time being, Ben Simmons still qualifies as a young player.

And, in the opinion of Nate Duncan, host of the Dunc’d on Basketball NBA Podcast, the 23-year-old is sliding among the NBA’s best prospects.

On the latest Habershow podcast with NBC Sports national NBA insider Tom Haberstroh, Duncan ranked the top-10 prospects 23 and under. 

Here’s his list:

Tier 1: 
Luka Doncic

Tier 2: 
Zion Williamson

Tier 3: 
Ja Morant
Trae Young

Tier 4: 
Devin Booker
Donovan Mitchell
Jaylen Brown
Bam Adebayo
Brandon Ingram
Ben Simmons 

To Duncan, Simmons’ lack of shooting has a vast impact. 

Let’s give him credit for the way he’s developed the other facets of his game,” Duncan said. “I think he has taken incremental steps forward in things other than shooting, He’s a weird player. And to me, people have focused on the corner three — can he space the floor when he doesn’t have the ball?

"I actually think it’s a bigger deal that he can’t shoot a 15-footer when he’s on ball, that you can’t really run a pick-and-roll because you can just go under on him every time or you can switch onto him with a center that he then is not going to be able to beat because he can’t shoot more than three feet away from the basket — and that’s where centers are bigger than him, and they can just wait for him there if they’ve switched onto him.

Duncan also notes that players who shoot 60 percent or worse from the foul line at a high volume (Simmons is at 58.2 percent) hardly ever develop passable jumpers. It’s a sound point, especially given Simmons’ flawed mechanics, flared elbow and all.

Haberstroh, though, has faith in Simmons.

“I think the skills are there, I think the tools are there for him to become a jump shooter,” he said. “Watching him in practice and watching him pregame, it just feels like there’s just a switch. There’s just something that needs to click.”

The best argument for Simmons being too low on Duncan’s list is that the Australian is a stellar defensive player. There are obviously a variety of stats that help capture a player’s defensive value, many of which are limited. Simmons, however, scores well in many categories.

He’s tied with the Bulls’ Kris Dunn for the most steals in the league, first in defensive loose balls recovered per game, fifth in defensive win shares and fifth in deflections per game (minimum 10 games played).

Watching Simmons every game, one also appreciates what he adds defensively outside of statistics, as Haberstroh pointed out.

“He has a Giannis [Antetokounmpo]-type ceiling, to me,” Haberstroh said. “Defensively, he’s incredible. … His ability to lock up guards and his versatility on that end is a huge asset, and it’s one of the things that you can’t see in a box score. It’s harder to quantify that. Certainly, in conversations with your buddies at the bar, defensive versatility isn’t going to trump the whole non-shooting thing.”

Duncan respects the gist of that idea, but he also thinks it can be a crutch for proponents of Simmons. 

“Because it’s not quantifiable, they almost use it as a trump card now,” he said. “They’ll just be like, ‘Oh, but his defense is so much better.’ … Simmons, to me, he’s settling in. My projection for him would kind of be lower-end All-Star in the East. As amazing as his physical tools are, I don’t believe he has the upside because I don’t project him to ever shoot it.” 

You can listen to the full podcast here

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Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford has donated $500,000 to support coronavirus relief in the Dominican Republic, as well as in each region of the United States where he's played for a team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Horford’s father Tito was the first Dominican-born NBA player, and Al was born in the country. The family later moved to Michigan, where Horford attended Grand Ledge High School. He went to the University of Florida and has played for three NBA cities — Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia. 

Several other members of the Sixers organization have also made charitable donations during the coronavirus pandemic. Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COV-19 medical relief efforts. Ben Simmons launched “The Philly Pledge,” an initiative which encourages donations to Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund that’s received support from a wide range of Philadelphia athletes, among them teammates Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok. 

Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have made several donations related to coronavirus relief, including to Philabundance and to CHOP and Cooper Hospital.

Limited partner Michael Rubin aims to have his company Fanatics produce a million masks and gowns for hospital and emergency healthcare workers. 

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Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

There's a lot of home schooling going on right now, so why not use some of this time to learn more about the history of your favorite teams? In this edition of Sixers Home School, we look back at the night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.

In a vacuum, rookie Allen Iverson crossing over the legendary Michael Jordan on March 12, 1997, at what was then known as the CoreStates Center was impressive enough.

Putting it into context makes you understand just how big of a deal it was at the time.

The 21-year-old Iverson was having a strong rookie campaign after the Sixers drafted him No. 1 overall. He was still a month away from setting an NBA rookie record with five straight games of 40-plus points. He wasn’t sporting what would become his trademark cornrows — though he did rock them when he won MVP of the Schick Rookie Game. 

This night was when he began to really put a bow on what would turn into a Rookie of the Year season.

As for Jordan and the Bulls, they were ho humming their way to a 69-win season and their fifth title in seven years. Jordan was 33, and though his game had evolved, he was as dominant as ever. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman provided all the help he would need.

But on this night, it wasn’t about the Bulls, who celebrated receiving their championship ring ceremony by trouncing the Sixers and shutting down Iverson earlier in the season.

This was about the kid from Hampton, Virginia. The six-foot guard from Georgetown that grew up idolizing His Airness, but also told a coach back in high school that he was good enough to take him. 

“I remember the first time I played against him,” Iverson said in his Hall of Fame speech. “I walked out on the court and I looked at him, and for the first time in my life a human being didn’t look real to me.”

Though the first time the two actually talked was not necessarily cordial.

“The first time I ever talked to him was that year playing in the Rookie Game,” Iverson said in an interview with Complex. “I’ll never forget it because he said, ‘What’s up, you little b----?’ I’ll never forget it.”

Whether the moment provided extra motivation or what, Iverson was at times the best player on the court — which, given who was on the court, is a hell of a statement.

Iverson would finish with a game-high 37 points and foul out in a four-point loss. No, the Sixers didn’t win that night, but the fact that Iverson nearly willed a team full of guys like Scott Williams, Mark Davis and Rex Chapman to a victory over that juggernaut was remarkable.

But over the course of time, nobody remembers — or really cares — who won that game. It was the moment A.I. crossed over M.J. It wasn’t quite a torch-passing moment as Jordan would go on to win another MVP and championship, but it was a clear indication that Philadelphia had drafted a star.

That highlight dominated every sportscast the following day and had Sixers fans' imaginations running wild.

The legend of Iverson only continued to grow from there as he became one Philadelphia’s most celebrated athletes and joined his idol in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Years later, he spoke to Jordan about the moment he got him with his legendary crossover.

“I went to a Charlotte game and I was telling him how much he meant to me and how I rocked with him,” Iverson went on to say in the interview with Complex. “He was like, ‘Man, you don’t rock with me like that because you wouldn’t have crossed me like that.’”

For as much as Iverson had idolized Jordan, his desire to beat him and be the best outweighed that.

“I always knew that once I got to the league, I was going to try my move on the best,” Iverson said, “so he was just a victim that night.”

That night, a star was born and a legacy was just beginning.

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