Ben Simmons Shows Appreciation for Al Horford's Leadership

Justin Grasso

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- When the Philadelphia 76ers signed Al Horford to a four-year deal over the summer, they coughed up the big bucks for a handful of reasons. One is obvious; Al Horford is simply good as a big man on the court. Just last season, he was an All-Star, so pairing him up with two other All-Stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid sounded like a good idea for the Sixers' front office.

The second reason why Philly signed him was being that Horford comes to Philly as great insurance for Joel Embiid. Although Embiid is undoubtedly the starting center when healthy, his injury history has and will forever be a concern as long as he is playing. Therefore, Horford gives the Sixers a reliable backup at the center position.

Now, the third and perhaps, the most crucial reason for the Sixers to lock Horford in happens to be the veteran's leadership skills. As a well-respected player, who has been in the league since 2007, Horford obviously knows a thing or two about leading a team.

Over the last two seasons, the 76ers have looked to players such as JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler to help steer the ship as a captain -- but this season those guys are both playing elsewhere. With Horford in the building now, the Sixers were relying on the former Celtics' center to come in and drop knowledge on his young teammates.

And so far, it sounds like all is well in that department. Despite struggling before with Embiid in the lineup, Horford has since been picking up some of that slack as he has been playing at center. On Friday night, Horford helped contribute to the Sixers' 11-point victory over Chicago with 20 total points.

Following the game, Sixers' point guard Ben Simmons was asked about playing with Horford as of late. Before, all answers regarding playing with Horford from any of the big man's teammates sounded something like 'it's still a work in progress.' According to Simmons, though everything has "been great."

"He helps the team obviously, that chemistry is there," Simmons said. "Somebody like that is easy to play with." While Simmons appreciates Horford's style of play, it's his leadership that the young point guard wanted to highlight following their win over the Bulls.

"He's going to tell it straight, you know? He's going to tell me if I messed up and what I can do better. He will put me in the right positions to do well and succeed. He definitely [opens up a lot of opportunities]. Having Al here has been great. I try to find him as much as I can."

While Simmons has been one of the Sixers' vocal leaders this season, which Horford also credited him for before -- the 23-year-old point guard is still learning and trying to develop himself as a captain. With Horford in the mix, Simmons is getting a respectable mentor to show him the ropes, further proving that Horford's signing with the Sixers goes well beyond what he produces on the stat sheet.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_