Now that he's officially in the Basketball Hall of Fame—and has helped usher in former rival Yao Ming—Shaquille O'Neal didn't waste any time in anointing what current and future NBA players will be joining.
Sure, he didn't actually proclaim that Philadelphia 76ers No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons should punch his ticket to Springfield, Massachusetts, right away, but he did compare him to one of the league's best players ever: LeBron James.
"I don't know all of them," Shaq, an analyst for TNT, told CSN Philly of this season's rookie class, "but I know my guy's going to be pretty good, Ben Simmons."
"He's a LeBron-type player," O'Neal continued. "What I mean by that, LeBron does a nice job of making everybody else around him better—passing the ball, doing the small things—and Ben is that type of player."
A bold statement, to be sure, but not a wrong one, either.
Like James, Ben Simmons has the brain—and passing ability—of an elite point guard in the body of a sturdy power forward. And like LeBron, the 20-year-old Australian is entering the league without much of a jump shot.
That's where the comparisons should end, though. Simmons has nowhere near the explosion or quickness that allows James to power to the basket on offense and cover multiple positions on defense. Perhaps the biggest difference comes at the rim, where LeBron, for obvious reasons, is a top-shelf finisher. Simmons has shown, in college and during summer league, that he has a long way to go there, as well.
Which is a pretty big knock—lacking scoring skills like a jump shot or the ability to finish at the rim can really hinder one's ability to make plays for others, allowing defenders to sag way off. Still, if he's playing power forward, his lack of a jump shot will be minimized, unlike for shot-less guards like Rajon Rondo or DeMar DeRozan.
Shaq thinks Simmons has the smarts to overcome that sort of deficit, anyway.
“When it comes to other aspects of the game, he's very, very intelligent,” O’Neal said. “He plays the game very well."