There have been many great point guards in the NBA but very few have the passing gene. Pete Maravich had the gene, Magic Johnson had the gene, Jason Kidd had the gene, and Steve Nash had the gene. Although it’s a small sample size, Ben Simmons showed in summer league he has the gene. Very few are gifted with the gene even fewer stand at 6’10, this is the skill that makes Ben Simmons a special player.
It is easy to point at all the flaws of his game, Simmons lacks an outside jumper and his defense has to improve at the next level. His passing and vision though, that is something that can’t be taught. There are drills to improve shooting; coaching can be applied to help improve defensive deficiencies of players; there are drills to improve one’s court vision and timing. That’s an instinctive thing; it’s a genetic thing. The gene may even come with some slight psychic tendencies as they make passes to teammates before they even know they are open.
Chris Paul and LeBron James have the gene, just when it appears there is nowhere to go with the ball they find a teammate open at the last second. Sometimes these passes become turnovers since their own teammates are not expecting to get the ball. It is very similar to a quarterback in football being given an interception when the ball goes off their own receiver’s hands and into the defenders.
Simmons looks to be the first in the next generation of NBA future stars to have the gene. He’s averaging 5.5 assists per game in summer league and could have had more if his teammates were able to finish plays. His passing ability is ahead of his teammates basketball thinking and will result in a few extra turnovers for him. Below are two examples of passes that should have been completed for assists but botched by the receivers.
Simmons has dazzled fans with his passing that have left defenses puzzled as to where the ball is going. In these plays below, he throws a behind the back pass in stride coming off of a pick-and-roll, in transition throws a hook pass over the defense as they collapse on him for a layup, and throws a no look touch pass on a three-on-one fast break for a dunk. The last clip, he drives from the wing and it appears like the right pass is to Christian Wood spotting up at the three point line but he catches D’Angelo Russell sleeping and hits a back cutting Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot for a layup.
Having the passing gene does not necessarily make someone a great player, it has to be cultivated and developed. If the Philadelphia 76ers surround him with the proper talent, Simmons can develop the passing gene. Ben Simmons has a long way to go to become a great player. He does possess the tools though to become great. For now, his Sixers’ teammates better keep their hands always ready in practice when he has the ball to avoid getting hit in the face with a pass.
- ESPN: Ben Simmons: Chemistry with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor goes back
- SB Nation: NBA Summer League 2016 scores: Ben Simmons is an albatross