One of the nation’s top freshman Ben Simmons has announced that he plans to enter the NBA draft after just one season at LSU. Simmons was a consensus top three prospect out of high school, where he starred at Montverde Academy in Florida, and will likely be a top three pick come the NBA Draft in June.
In his one season at LSU, Simmons was dominant. Simmons was hands down the best player on the court game in and game out for the Tigers. Simmons led the Tigers in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and field goal percentage. He took home SEC Freshman of the Year over Jamal Murray of Kentucky.
The Australian native averaged a double-double for his nightly efforts. Simmons totaled 24 double-doubles, which led all major conference players. He contributed 19.2 points per game, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He had standout games against North Florida, Marquette, Florida and Vanderbilt. Against North Florida, Simmons put up video game numbers of 43 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 5 blocks.
In the game against Marquette, Simmons was matched up against other stellar freshman Henry Ellenson, and won that head-to-head battle with 21 points, 20 rebounds and 7 assists, but the game resulted in an LSU loss.
But despite his successes off the field, Simmons’ career at LSU will have mixed views, with one of those views being disappointing. He didn’t lead the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament, when coming into the year the Tigers could have been a Sweet Sixteen contender. Late in the year, Simmons was suspended for a game due to academic issues. His character also could have been called into question, because he didn’t seem to care that he was suspended or wouldn’t be considered for the Wooden Award. The combination of these issues led to Simmons losing his once locked up status as as the number one pick in the draft.
As for his transition to the NBA, Simmons is a unique talent with a unique skill set. He’s a 6’10” point forward. He rebounds like a center and runs and passes like a point guard. Simmons projects as a good defender at the next level, where his quick feet and hands and 7″ wing span should lead to solid steal and block numbers at the NBA level. He can use either hand when finishing around the rim and while passing, as seen in the gifs below.
His versatility will also pay off in the NBA. On offense, he can run the point and set up the offense, or you can put him on the post, where he has an array of post moves that lead to easy dunks and layups. If a double team comes, Simmons is a great passer and can find shooters open for three pointers or find cutters and slashers.
On defense, he should be able to cover a lll positions outside of centers with ease. His speed and athleticism will allow him to stay in front of guards, and he has the size to matchup against forwards out on the perimeter or on the block.
As for his weaknesses, Simmons has a couple of things to work on, mostly his outside shooting. Simmons only shot three shots from behind the arc, and hit one of them. Whether it’s that Simmons can’t shoot or just doesn’t remains to be seen, but in today’s NBA, that could be a problem that could limit his tremendously high ceiling. Even from the free throw line Simmons wasn’t proficient, just shooting 67% on his freebies.
His mental makeup can be brought into question too. Whether it was the game plan or whether Simmons just doesn’t want the ball down the stretch, there were times in close games where he wouldn’t even touch the ball, most notably against Buddy Hield and Oklahoma. His lack of shooting ability limits his activity down the stretch, especially when trailing, but he was too valuable to LSU to be subbed out. He’s not too emotional on the court, he doesn’t have to be DeMarcus Cousins out there, but you would generally like your leader to show a little emotion and get fired up from time to time to rally his teammates. Maybe that’s nitpicking, but after watching players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and now Russell Westbrook do it, I like when a leader is loud and expressive.
There’s no denying Simmons has the talent and skill set to make it in the NBA. He’ll be a top pick in June and could be one of the best players on the team that drafts him from day one. He’s a rare freshman that has a polished game, but still has so much more to offer. In a weak draft, he could be one of the best players in this draft when it’s all set and done, but it’s all up to Simmons on whether he wants to be one of the all-time greats.
Cover photo via Sports Vice
Gifs via The Big Lead and Sports Illustrasted