The Philadelphia 76ers have already shown themselves to be a very good team in the NBA this season. We’ve seen them off to a 12-5 start, good for first place in the eastern conference at this point. When all the starters play, they’ve been unbeatable so far at 9-0. While these are all very encouraging signs in the regular season, the end goal is still to win a championship. Looking at the current roster and thinking about who raises the ceiling of the team with improved play, it’s an obvious answer: Ben Simmons. After the Sixers missed out on James Harden, many turned their attention to other potential stars to trade Ben Simmons for. But what if Ben Simmons is turning a corner and becoming more aggressive offensively? That kind of player has more of an impact than any player available for trade now that Harden is off the table.

Saturday night’s win at Detroit was easily Ben Simmons’ best all around game of the year. He posted 20 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block in the victory. He only took 7 field goal attempts in the game and has only registered 10 or more attempts in five of the fifteen games he’s played in this year. The main difference in his point of attack against the Pistons was his ability to get to the free throw line and knock down the shots. He shot 10 of 12 from the stripe in that game.

We all know Ben Simmons is one of the best defenders in the NBA and probably the most versatile. Fans have been quick to turn on him over the last couple weeks due to his low scoring numbers and lack of aggression. Because the team has had so much early success, looking for any improvements the team can make must start with him. He effects the game in every other way, but being just a bit more of a threat to score can make this team significantly more dangerous.

Ben Simmons is a player who’s regularly gotten off to slow starts to the season offensively. Last season through 15 games, Simmons was averaging 12.8 points per game. Through his first 15 games this year, he’s averaging 12.9 points per contest. Comparing more of his stats to last year’s he is averaging about three more rebounds per game than he was last season and over one more assist per game as well. As the season continues we will at the very least see the same kind of Ben Simmons that we’re used to seeing. With all the spacing around him and a dominant Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons has the ability to raise the ceiling of this team. To me, the biggest factor for his success will be his ability to get to the line consistently and make his free throws at around a 70% clip. It’s always been clear that Ben Simmons isn’t going around looking for his own shot. He thrives off the ability to find shooters around him both in transition and in the half court. But a reasonable expectation for him is to initiate contact and go up strong whenever he has a lane to the basket.

Doc Rivers has said he is not yet concerned about Simmons’ ability to score. At a certain point, probably in a seven game series, the threat has to be there in order for this team to win. No matter what the other players on this roster are doing, Ben Simmons is the key to the long term success of this team. We know Joel is going to be dominant, Tobias has been as consistent as anyone, and the shooters on the roster continue to knock threes down. The last couple games have been very encouraging and Ben’s ability to find a comfort zone in the offense will be something to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the season.

Photo: Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer

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