Young guns clash as Lakers host 76ers

LOS ANGELES -- Two of the youngest teams in the NBA will go head-to-head when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center on Wednesday.

The 76ers (7-6) had the second-youngest opening-day roster in the NBA at 24.7 years of age, and the Lakers (6-8) were tied for the third-youngest at 24.9.

Philadelphia had the No. 1 draft pick each of the past two years and the Lakers selected No. 2 in both drafts, though only three of those players will be on the court Wednesday.

76ers point guard Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick out of LSU in 2016, is averaging 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists. He's the top rebounding point guard in the NBA and fifth in assists.

"He's a difference-maker," 76ers coach Brett Brown told reporters after Simmons had 22 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in a 109-105 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. "He is a game-changer at a 6-10 point guard position. ... The thing I like the most, and get excited the most is, he's barely scratched the surface. He has so much more to give and to improve on and knowledge to take in."

This year's No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, has been sidelined since Oct. 25 with a sore right shoulder.

Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball was taken second overall behind Fultz and he's been solid in some areas and disappointing in others.

Ball is seventh in the NBA in assists at 7.2 a game and third among point guards at 6.6 rebounds, but continues to struggle with his shooting accuracy.

Ball's overall field goal percentage sits at 31.3 percent, though he's only bettered that mark in three of 14 games. He averages the most 3-point attempts on the Lakers at 4.9 per game, but has made only 25 percent of his tries from deep.

Los Angeles seems to have the right complement off the bench, however, and it was Jordan Clarkson who kept Ball on the bench in the fourth quarter of a 100-93 victory against the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Clarkson didn't arrive in Los Angeles with nearly the expectations of Ball, but the former second-round pick has been one of the team's best scorers.

He shot 11-for-19 from the field and scored his season high of 25 points against the Suns. He only had three assists, but didn't turn the ball over in 26 minutes either.

Clarkson shot between 43 and 45 percent from the field in each of his first three seasons, but is at 51.2 so far this season, including 40 percent from 3-point distance.

Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Los Angeles Times that Clarkson seems more focused and serious this season.

"Just his overall approach each day," Walton said. "Asking questions to the way he's been practicing. The effort he's been giving on defense, for the most part, is a huge step up from last year. Just his overall presence around the court."

Clarkson should be happy to see the 76ers, too. He scored his then-career high of 30 points against Philadelphia last season.
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