Former Chicago Bulls center and three-time NBA champion Luc Longley believes Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has the ability to reach the heights of basketball greats Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Simmons is only 12 games into his NBA career but the 2016 number one draft pick is already being compared to Bulls icon Jordan and Cleveland Cavaliers star James, who share nine league titles and as many MVP awards between them.
After his rookie season was delayed by a serious foot injury last year, Australian Simmons has hit the ground running this term with seven double-doubles and two triple-doubles for the emerging 76ers.
Simmons' record of two triple-doubles – after nine games – is something Jordan (58 games) and James (118 games) took time to achieve.
Longley, who won three successive NBA rings alongside Jordan in Chicago from 1996 to 1998, feels the sky is the limit for his 21-year-old countryman.
THROW. IT. DOWN. pic.twitter.com/h5qnuXMvF2— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 10, 2017
"His skill package is fantastic and his physical tools are fantastic," the 48-year-old – now working as assistant coach for Australia – told Omnisport.
"One of the things both Michael Jordan and LeBron James have that we're yet to see in Ben is the ability to stay injury free. No one knows what someone's resilience is going to be like. That will be important for him.
"Champions like Michael and LeBron learn how to lead men and inspire team-mates. Because he is such a young man, we haven't seen that from Ben but it's something that will become apparent as time goes on. All that's got to be proved. On early evidence, he has all the tools to do that."
On comparisons with Jordan and James, Longley added: "It's inevitable. We wouldn't be saying it if he wasn't good enough. We aren't saying it about many players.
"The proof is in the pudding. I'm sure that's what Ben has his focus on is being that good. He is making a convincing case given he's only played a handful of games.
"Maybe it's too early to make those comparisons but these days you can't manage that in anyway. It's absolutely impossible. I'm sure Ben himself understands that it's early for those comparisons and he has lots of runs to put on the board.
"He is going to enjoy that, proving everybody right and some people wrong. That will be the fun part of it I imagine."
A fractured fifth metatarsal forced Simmons to miss the entire 2016-17 campaign as he and 76ers fans were made to wait for his highly-anticipated NBA debut.
Fast forward 12 months and Simmons is averaging 17.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists in a seamless transition to the NBA, and Longley believes his countryman has benefited from a year on the sidelines.
"He had a year to study it. Sit on the sidelines and learn and watch the game," Longley said. "In some ways, it's been great for him. Obviously it was difficult but it's clearly helped him.
"I don't think he would've been as impactful 12 months ago. It certainly looks like he used the 12 months productively.
"Obviously rookie seasons are always tough in terms of the physical load and the mental load of an 82-game regular-season schedule.
"Hopefully he can keep it up through 82 games because the 76ers will benefit greatly from that. I've been enjoying watching him. I think everyone has. It's a tread. He's doing marvellously."
Born in Melbourne, Simmons is also set to play a key role in the future of Australia's national team.
Australia – who won the FIBA Asia Cup in August – are preparing for the start of their 2019 World Cup Asian qualifiers against Chinese Taipei and Japan this month, and the Boomers are confident of having Simmons available for the championship in two years as well as the 2020 Olympic Games.
"He's definitely a candidate," Longley said. "There's a lot of pressure on that young man. He's only now played a handful of games.
"When I spoke to him about playing for Australia, he said he really wanted to and he'd love to. He has a lot of work to do between now and then. Finding his feet in the NBA. I know he's keen."
|Former Barcelona boss Martino named MLS Coach of the Year|
|Bell fails to report to Steelers, will sit out rest of season|
|Federer back on track after dismal Thiem display|
|Udinese appoint Nicola after sacking Velazquez|
|Monaco deny they broke rules regarding youth recruitment|
|Del Bosque, Zidane, Lopetegui - The former Castilla coaches Solari follows into Real Madrid hot seat|
|Ozil rejected ´crazy offers´ from Asia, reveals agent|
|Real Madrid appoint Solari on permanent basis|
|LeVert avoids need for surgery, should return this season|
|Neuer confident despite concerns over Bayern Munich form|
|All I ever wanted to do is win, says Sixers signing Butler|
|Pogba: Coming home to United was the best feeling ever|
|Watson among four signing new Bath deals|
|Susanna Dinnage to replace Scudamore as Premier League chief executive|
|Murray commits to Brighton until 2020|
|Rooney rejected chance of pre-World Cup farewell|
|Impressive Anderson thrashes Nishikori|
|Ozil´s Germany absence a ´pity´, says Sane|
|Rooney: I´ll finish my career in the US|
|McIlroy unsure of 2019 European Tour membership|
|Australian Open dismisses concerns of Federer scheduling bias|
|Hue Jackson joins Bengals staff as ´special assistant´|
|Real Madrid confirm Reguilon injury|
|Higuain handed two-match ban for Juve meltdown|
|Kruis ruled out for England as Jones calls up uncapped quartet|
|A year on from Italy failure, Ventura leaves Chievo after four games|
|Bairstow misses out as unchanged England promote Stokes|
|Recalled Alba denies Luis Enrique bust-up|
|´Unhappy´ Christensen won´t push for Chelsea exit|
|Nadal to make Abu Dhabi comeback in December|
|Taijul helps Bangladesh tighten their grip despite Taylor ton|
|Neymar joining Real Madrid wouldn´t hurt Iniesta|
|It´s just team spirit - Livingston not worried by Durant-Green exchange|
|Trippier out of England squad with groin injury|
|Ex-Sri Lanka international Lokuhettige charged by ICC|
|Former England and Chelsea star Joe Cole retires|
|Nets offer support to LeVert following serious leg injury|
|Panenka proud Sergio Ramos imitates his penalties|
|Liverpool´s Alisson seeks patience to reach potential|
|Anthony Davis leads Pelicans, Clippers hold off Warriors in OT|
|Lindelof rues international break for Man Utd|
|Shaqiri confident in more goals for Liverpool|
|Giants too good for 49ers in crunch time|
|Southgate named honorary Yorkshireman|
|Nicky Butt: Manchester United are low on confidence|
|Criticism of Barcelona star Dembele is overblown - agent|
|Thibodeau discusses Butler trade: We thought this was the best deal for us|
|Acuna, Ohtani win rookie of the year awards|
|LeBron James on Lakers’ early season struggles: ‘I almost cracked’|
|Welbeck has successful second operation on broken ankle|
|UEFA warns FFP cases can be reopened based on ´new information´|
|Foakes to keep England place for second Test|
|WATCH: Rooney looking sharp in England training return|
|Mbappe: Money in football is truly indecent|
|Djokovic back to brilliant best as Isner is beaten|
|Celta Vigo replace Mohamed with Cardoso after Real Madrid defeat|
|Joshua intrigued by Usyk, says Hearn|
|Ibrahimovic beats Rooney to MLS Newcomer award|
|Rams WR Kupp out for season with torn ACL|
|Sturridge denies ever gambling on football following FA charge|
|Koeman understands De Ligt´s Eredivisie frustrations|
|Jimmy Butler trade: 76ers acquire Timberwolves star in blockbuster deal|
|´Improve your attitude´ - Deschamps issues Dembele warning|
|Sturridge charged with misconduct over alleged breach of betting rules|
|Saints sign Marshall following Bryant injury|
|Mendy suffers knee injury, leaves France squad with Lacazette|
|Zverev beats Cilic in error-strewn London battle|
|Rafinha replaces injured Casemiro in Brazil squad|
|´One-dimensional´ Australia batsmen need work before World Cup - Finch|
|Mancini keen to work with ´incredibly gifted´ Tonali|