When a basketball mind like Billy Donovan speaks, you listen.
Prior to the Chicago Bulls’ 118-108 win over the Dallas Mavericks last night, I asked Donovan about the playmakers that are the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: So I’m curious. You play against a Mavericks team that has a guy in Luka Doncic; I don’t think he’s playing tonight, I’m not sure; I didn’t see the scouting report tonight…But, the thing I want to ask you being a Western Conference Coach you were front and center to have seen Luka play. You’ve also seen LeBron play. What are some of the similarities as a playmaker – you look at Ben Simmons in the Eastern Conference as a playmaker… where do you place those guys; Ben Simmons, LeBron and even Luka as playmakers? Do you see similarities between those three gentlemen?
Billy Donovan: Well I think they all go about it in a different way. They’re all kind of multi-positional players, but they’re all great with the ball in their hands. I think the one thing that would stand out with the three of them and obviously LeBron with his experience and his time in the league you know, is just their basketball IQ. They have an INCREDIBLE feel and understanding of the game; you know, I would say with LeBron, he – and I’m just speculating on this, is that he studies and prepares really well. He knows what’s going on and he understands how teams being guarded, coverage and things like that. He can see and I’ve always said this about him even seeing him in high school, he tries to make the RIGHT basketball play and he’s really, really a terrific passer in terms in where people are open and delivering the ball to the people on time and on target. I think Doncic’s the same thing; just his IQ and his feel and his ability to – all those guys to score but they can generate shots for others so, that’s the one thing that stands out for all of them is just their basketball IQ.
Billy Donovan took over a Chicago Bulls team that went 22-43 last season and finished in eleventh place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings. Donovan replaced Jim Boylen who was hired in December 2018 and fired this summer after compiling a 39-84 record.
Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder parted ways after five NBA seasons. In those five seasons, Donovan compiled a 243–157 coaching record while making the postseason each year and advancing past the first round just once.
At 6’8, LeBron James has had impact from the minute he walked on an NBA floor at 18 years old.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, James has won four NBA Championships; two with the Miami Heat during the Big three-era with alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, one with Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin and another most recently with his current Lakers team alongside fellow All-Star Anthony Davis.
Since entering the league, James impact has been felt and newcomers are watching.
Insert Doncic and Simmons.
At 6’10, Simmons is a triple double threat in similar to James and Lakers legend, Magic Johnson.
“You can connect your own dots” former 76ers head coach, Brett Brown told me last season.
“His ability to impact the game from a scoring perspective, finding Ben Simmons at an elbow, you can’t sag and elbow.
“He’s a one dribble dunk away from that floor spot” Brown speaking about Ben Simmons working in a screen and roll.
“It opens up a variety of ways he can score.
“He’s a two time all star, a max player and he’s 23.”
The third overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Doncic was traded to the Mavs in exchange for Trae Young.
The NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2019, in his first campaign, Doncic posted a solid 21.2-points, 7.8-rebounds and 6.0 assists campaign for the Mavs.
Last season, the Slovenian point guard averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per contest.
This season, Doncic is averaging 23.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists per contest for the Mavs.