There’s no doubt that Ben Simmons is probably the best player in college basketball today. After all, he was the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2015, and all signs point to him leaving school for the NBA after his freshman season wraps up in a couple of months.
But just how high is Simmons’ current draft stock? It surely took a small hit when he chose to play for LSU over an established regular championship contender in Kansas, but Simmons’ overall production suggests otherwise. LSU is only 11-7 (4-2 SEC) on the year, but has signature wins over established conference staples in Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss and Simmons is a big reason why. He is averaging 19.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, and his excellent build at 6-foot-10, 225 pounds suggests that he’ll be a fine big man on the next level.
Except Simmons, despite his size, isn’t a big man. Though built like a power forward, his clear preference towards playing a face-up game and playmaking abilities are more that of a wing-type player. Given how almost all of his offense comes from layups or free-throws this could be a cause for concern down the stretch if he does indeed leave LSU after his freshman season.
Consider this. NBADraft.net currently has Simmons going first overall this summer to the Philadelphia 76ers in its latest mock draft, and lists his pro comparison as that of a mix between LeBron James and Lamar Odom. Considering how Odom was a bigger player who made a career out of being a scorer, the fact that Simmons does not even have a mid-range jump shot at this point in his collegiate career definitely raises more than just a red flag.
That isn’t to say that Simmons can and will be a draft bust in 2016. Despite his limitations, his court vision and basketball IQ are off the charts for someone just 19 years old. Those of his age who can move on the court with the quickness and finesse that he does are few and far between.
But the reality of the matter is that though Simmons is, arguably, the best in the game right now, he has a lot of work to do if he wants to enjoy the same success on the professional level, namely in what kind of player he wants to be. If he wants to be a power forward, he needs to develop a low post game. If he opts to be a wing, developing a jump shot is an absolute must. This is all doable at Simmons’ age and could very well be a quick process so long as he practices regularly, but it also means something slightly more costly.
Given his limitations now, it’s probably best if Simmons stays in school for one more season just to further hone his craft. That way, once he makes the jump to the NBA, his odds of being a great player overall and not just a fine college talent will grow.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports