Welcome to Halftime’s preview of the 2016 NBA Draft, where our writers will be analyzing the players and teams that will headline this summer’s selection process.
Strengths: Where to start with this guy? He’s one of the most unique all-around prospects we’ve seen in years. He’s the most LeBron-like player we’ve seen since, well, LeBron. The hallmark of his game is his passing. Even more than his 42 inch vertical or ability to grab a defensive rebound in traffic and push the ball up for a spectacular dunk, the most impressive thing Simmons does is pass the basketball. He’s mastered Lebron’s bullet passes to corner 3 point shooters either from the post or on the drive and he’s also flashed beautiful passing skills in transition including long, needle-threading bounce passes with either hand. The man is a flat-out playmaker, with the ability to take a Magic/LeBron/Bird like “snapshot” of the floor and find teammates before they even know they’re open. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him averaging 6 or 7 assists his rookie year. He has the size and fundamental skills to play all five positions at 6’10” 240 lbs., in addition to being an elite athlete. His speed and agility are unheard of for his size, and he can finish at the rim with either hand with finesse or power as a result. If you designed a player in a lab to be the perfect transition basketball player, you’d get Ben Simmons. He’s a great rebounder, a very good ambidextrous ball-handler (especially his in-and out move on the break going to his left), and possesses a level of basketball IQ that can’t be taught at this age. He’s incredibly strong with and without the ball, having the ability to absorb contact and finish around the basket or grab a rebound in traffic with ease. His quickness and timing should allow him to develop into a plus defender down the road. He was a proven winner in high school (3 national championships) and by all accounts is a great, unselfish, hardworking teammate with a leader’s mentality, a cool head, and a great attitude. Not bad for someone who was once called “a better person than player”.
Weaknesses: His jump shot isn’t just broken; he seems to have lost all confidence in it. Simmons attempted only three 3-point shots in his entire college career, making just one. At least we know he isn’t Josh Smith. Some scouts aren’t entirely convinced his left hand is his natural shooting hand, and his mechanics are incredibly awkward, shooting his jumper while on the way down. His short wingspan may or may not contribute to this. Thankfully, his shooting woes don’t carry over to the free-throw line, so there might be a light at the end of the tunnel for his shooting development. Adding to the question of his handedness, he tends to come back to the right too often to finish. While he is a capable finisher with his left, he has the bad habit of using his right to finish plays he’d be better off finishing with his left. Compounded with his tendency to be a little contact-shy, he often ends up in some very awkward positions driving to the basket. His post-up game could also use some improvement, since he lacks the ability to go left from the post. In fact, he can’t really score with his back to the basket at all in ways that would translate to the NBA, with the exception of the occasional right hook, although his face-up game is extremely effective due to his quickness off the dribble. He can be a bit too unselfish sometimes, which leads to high turnover numbers from his flashy and sometimes risky passing in addition to shying away from taking clutch shots down the stretch. This ties into the final weakness in his game: his lack of the so-called “killer instinct”. He has the tendency to take plays off defensively, and the fact that his college team couldn’t make the tournament under his leadership is a bit of a red flag to some scouts.
Best Landing Spot: The Los Angeles Lakers. Luke Walton knows how to incorporate playmaking forwards into an offense – just look at the way he used Draymond Green in the first half of this season. Walton’s best skills in his playing days were his passing and vision, so he’ll understand Simmons’ strengths better than any coach in the league could. The Lakers also have shooters in D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson at the guard spots, something any team with Simmons needs to have in order to get the most out of his playmaking. Playing against the hard-nosed Julius Randle in practice should help Simmons develop a tougher edge to his game.
Probable Landing Spot: The Philadelphia 76ers. He’ll be the fifth big man drafted in three years expected to be the savior in Philly. He’ll have the ball in his hands from day one, essentially the team’s point guard, a responsibility he isn’t quite ready to take on yet. Philly’s roster currently lacks the spacing needed to get the most out of him, and the coaching staff will force him into a fast- paced system that’ll be all about getting out and running and getting the first shot available as opposed to improving Simmons’ skills in the half-court offense and molding him into a more focused defensive player. However, this system will allow him to showcase some of his more spectacular abilities in transition, and he has the ability to turn the Sixers into one of the more entertaining teams in the league, while not necessarily a good one. I believe Simmons will be the franchise player they’ve been trying to draft ever since Bynum’s fateful day at the bowling alley and in all likelihood will take home the Rookie of the Year award next season.
Ceiling: LeBron James
Floor: Boris Diaw on Weight Watchers