Is Ben Simmons the undisputed top NBA draft pick?
The hype train continues to chug along for Ben Simmons. The 6’10’’ LSU freshman is unsurprisingly, the consensus number one pick across various mock drafts. Averaging 19.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks makes sure of that.
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In a recent interview on SEN Breakfast, Golden State Warriors and Boomers center Andrew Bogut emphatically concurs.
“Yes [Simmons is] number one, I don’t think it’s even close. I think he’s the unanimous number one selection. I think that if [a team] have a need in his position, it would be crazy not to take him,” said Bogut. “He’s going to be probably one of the best, if not the best Australian basketballers ever. He’s got all the tools, very athletic, very talented. I think there’s big things for him going forward.”
That said, there are some doubts about Simmons’ top pick status. Much of this stems from how LSU isn’t playing like the team with the top prospect, stop-starting their way to an 11-7 record so far. Simmons has been lauded for his unselfish style of play, even drawing comparisons to LeBron James, but the concern is that he might be too unselfish. The train of thought goes like this: it’s all well and good to share the ball and not hog shots, but when the losses are piling up, shouldn’t the far-and-away best player on the team be looking to take over games and will his squad to more Ws?
Another, more tangible, flaw to Simmons’ game is his reluctance to be a threat from distance. He’s shooting 33% from three-point land, which is bad enough as is, but take into account that he’s attempted just three all season. That adds up to one make, in total. Step in a little, and it looks worse; he’s shooting 32% on two-point jumpers. Even in his best highlight compilations, the amount that defenders sag off of him is obvious. In an NBA that’s increasingly about spacing and shooting, Simmons could struggle. His physical gifts might also stand out less in the NBA, where just about every other player is an athletic marvel.
Of course, what Simmons is not shouldn’t detract from what he is. He’s a great finisher, shooting 77.5% at the rim, and his vision and passing ability make him a true point forward.
At 19, Simmons is also still very young, and his shooting can be trained and honed. It’s why there are coaches known for being ‘shot doctors’, like the San Antonio Spurs’ famed Chip Engelland, who remodelled Kawhi Leonard’s shot and turned him into the sharpshooter he is today. The same thing goes with coach Holger Geschwindner, the German guru who saw potential in a young Dirk Nowitzki and moulded him into a shooter over being a traditional big man.
Simmons is fully aware of his weakness, and NBA scouts interviewed by Bleacher Report have had varied and opposing opinions on the subject. Going by this interview with DraftExpress during the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit, it’s something he’s actively worked on in his spare time. “Definitely my shooting. I’ve been working on my shooting a lot more these past couple of weeks, but I know once I get that down, it’s going to be hard to stop me.”
As for his ability or willingness to take over as a team’s alpha-dog, that could likely be dependent on the team he lands on, and the role that is expected of him. It’s definitely something that he can grow into. Lest we forget, even LeBron had questions about his ‘clutchness’ and level of competitiveness leveled at him once.
There’s still some ways to go before Simmons gets the opportunity to hear his name called by Adam Silver, which means there’s still time for more shooting reps and growing more comfortable with his status as best player on the team. Come season’s end, there’s every chance he improves his game more and LSU wins enough games to quieten, if not outright shut up, the critics.
As a former number one pick himself, perhaps no one can empathize with Simmons’ position as well as Bogey. “He’s got a lot on his plate, he’s got to keep working.”
If Ben Simmons wants to maintain his spot as the top prospect, and continue to develop after being drafted, you can be sure hard work is a sure thing.
Have a listen to the full interview on SEN Breakfast, where Bogut also talks about what it’s like playing as the defending champs night to night and the Boomers’ chances in Rio 2016, among other subjects!