We have reached that time of year where the NCAA hype machine gets going behind the top college players that you can expect to see in the NBA Draft green room. And this inevitably leads to talks of tank for (fill in the blank) campaigns from the pros.
This season’s subject of the “can’t-miss” tag is obviously none other than LSU‘s Ben Simmons.
The 6-foot-10 freshman is a versatile small forward known for his ball handling, pinpoint passing and high basketball IQ. All of these attributes had college insiders, NBA executives and Simmons’ godfather and assistant coach, David Patrick, comparing him to a young Lamar Odom. At one point, that was even down to the Australian’s lack of aggression. But once that changed, the talk turned to LeBron James, a comparison the future Hall of Famer said he did not mind.
Combining the attacking skills with the ones he already possessed made him considered the consensus No. 1 pick, even when he seemed like the rare big fish in a small pond getting eaten earlier in the year at LSU.
Averaging 20 points, five assists and 13 rebounds helped, but so did the horrible fall of Kentucky’s projected one-and-done prospect, Skal Labissiere. The 6-foot-11 forward was supposed to be a prime example of the NBA’s new prototype — a big man who can rebound, play defense and light teams up from the midrange to the three. However, the Haitian import has only taken and missed one three-point shot while putting up eight points, three rebounds and barely playing 17 minutes a game.
That type of struggle is enough to offset Simmons’ lack of a consistent jumper, and his similarities to a few of the league’s best point forwards is enough to hold him higher than Duke’s extremely skilled 6-foot-10 small forward Brandon Ingram.
So you can expect the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics (via the Brooklyn Nets) and Los Angeles Lakers to start watching the countdown clock to this summer’s draft lottery, because it may be their only means for putting star power back in those big cities. But hopefully we get there before any more Magic Johnson comparisons try to creep into Simmons’ young game.