When the Los Angeles Lakers host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, it'll be the first matchup between point guards Lonzo Ball and Ben Simmons. They were the preseason favorites for Rookie of the Year.
Simmons, who was drafted with the No. 1 overall selection in 2016, missed all of last season due to a foot injury. So this is considered his rookie campaign, and he has lived up to expectations early on. The 21-year-old is averaging 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists in 34.3 minutes per game. Those numbers combined are on pace to rank fourth among rookies in the last 25 years.
He has a chance to become just the second player to lead rookies in all three categories since the 1976-77 merger, joining former 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams in 2013-14.
Simmons has compiled at least 10 points and five assists in each of his first 12 games, the longest streak to begin a career in NBA history. John Wall (11) and Oscar Robertson (10) held the previous streaks, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Ball, who was selected second overall by the Lakers in this year's draft, has had some highs and lows so far this season. He's averaging 9.5 points, 7.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game, and became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.
Simmons (6-foot-10) and Ball (6-foot-6) are the two tallest point guards in the NBA (minimum five starts), which allows them to see the floor well and have an impact on the glass. Only two point guards in league history have averaged at least six rebounds and seven assists per game for a full season (Robertson in 1960-61 and Magic Johnson in 1979-80).
Trusting the Process
Both the Lakers and 76ers have been in a rebuilding mode in recent years. They have the two worst records in the NBA over the last five seasons -- Philadelphia has a .238 winning percentage, while Los Angeles' is .282.
They've also had top-3 picks in each of the past three NBA drafts.
But the Sixers have shown positive signs so far this season, as they have a 72 percent chance of making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index.
Other 76ers notes
Joel Embiid is averaging 20.9 points and 10.8 rebounds in just 28.5 minutes per game this season. If he continues at this pace, that would be the fewest minutes per game to average at least 20 points and 10 boards in NBA history. Clyde Lovellette did so in 28.7 minutes per contest in 1959-60.
Jahlil Okafor has played in just two games this season, averaging 5.0 points, down from 11.8 points in 2016-17 and 17.5 points as a rookie in 2015-16.
The 76ers are the fifth-best 3-point shooting team in the NBA (38.8 percent), while the Lakers rank last in 3-point field goals (102) and 3-point field-goal percentage (30.2).
Markelle Fultz, the top pick in this year's draft, is nursing a shoulder injury and hasn’t played since Oct. 23.
Other Lakers notes
Kyle Kuzma (14.9 points per game) is the second-leading scorer by rookies this season, behind Simmons.
Brook Lopez leads the team with 15.3 points per game, the third-lowest average by any team’s leading scorer this season. The Lakers' balanced attack features six qualified players averaging at least 10 points, tied for the most in the NBA.
The Lakers have the youngest team in the NBA (23.9), while the 76ers have the eighth-youngest (25.8), weighted by playing time, per the Elias Sports Bureau.