Potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons has been working out in Cleveland in advance of the NBA Draft, and he shares an agent, Rich Paul, with the city's biggest star. On Saturday, just five days before the draft, LeBron James gave Simmons a pretty nice endorsement.
"Well, I think he's a great young talent," James said. "I think the way he displays on the basketball court, we all notice. I think we all don't know just yet how great of a kid he is and how down to earth he is with the game of basketball and life in general. I had an opportunity to spend a lot of time over the last couple years with him and his family. They're just so very appreciative of the opportunity that they've been given as a family. Also, they give everything to their son. They want the best for him. And as a mentor to him and big brother to him, I also give him a lot of advice on what to expect when he makes his jump next week, how to handle it. But he also has to figure it out on his own as well because everybody's path is different."
James added that the forward out of LSU has "all the tools," so he can be as good as he wants to be. He did not, however, indulge the reporter who asked James if the Philadelphia 76ers would be crazy to pass up on Simmons with the first pick.
"I'm not a GM," James said. "I don't get paid by the Sixers. So I'm not going to answer that."
It's no surprise that James would say good things about Simmons, who has drawn (probably unfair) comparisons to the four-time MVP and two-time champion because of his combination of size and passing ability. James always has the best interests of Klutch Sports at heart -- two years ago, he encouraged the Phoenix Suns to pay up for Eric Bledsoe, and this past October he put pressure on the Cavaliers to re-sign Tristan Thompson. It's notable, though, that he really went the extra mile here.
James could have just praised Simmons' game, but he chose to comment on his family and his character. This is particularly important because Simmons drew some criticism for how he handled his year in Baton Rouge -- there have been concerns about his effort and attitude, especially after The Vertical's Jonathan Givony argued that he shouldn't be the No. 1 overall pick. While James' endorsement won't have any impact on what Philadelphia does on Thursday, his words do carry weight. This seems like a small thing, but it can help Simmons' reputation.