The Philadelphia 76ers selected LSU's Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft on Thursday night.
Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his freshman season. LSU missed the NCAA tournament and Simmons declared for the draft shortly after the season ended.
The Melbourne, Australia, native drew critical acclaim before he arrived at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. He drew comparisons to LeBron James before he was even 18 years old. His college career was confounding as he showed off once-in-a-generation basketball skills but also a lack of a killer instinct.
Strengths: Simmons is a point guard in a power forward’s body. He will immediately be one of the most dangerous and exciting transition players in the NBA. He has the court vision of a veteran one-guard, and he is creative and effective with the way he threads passes to teammates. He can be very selfless in halfcourt offenses, averaging more than five assists per 40 minutes. An ambidextrous dribbler, he is listed as a lefty but often finishes with his right. For his size, he has excellent body control, including a quick first step and an ability to change speeds effectively. Because of his desire to handle the ball in transition, he also has a knack for grabbing defensive rebounds. There’s good reason to believe that he’ll improve as a professional, when he’ll have more talented teammates to pass to and more space to improvise.
Weaknesses: Simmons’s most obvious and most discussed weakness is his jump shot. Some pundits have mischaracterized Simmons solely as a bad three-point shooter, but he actually struggled anytime he was away from the rim at LSU. He connected on just 32.9% of his two-point jumpers, according to hoop-math.com. His free-throw rate of 67.0% isn’t abysmal for a 6’10” forward, but it is for a player who envisions himself as a point forward. That weakness allowed defenders to slack off him and neutralize some of his strengths as a driver. As LSU’s season became more desperate, Simmons’s effort appeared to diminish.
Explanation: The worst-kept secret of the night is out of the way, and the 76ers finally put a proper face on their rebuild. Simmons will be ready to slide into the lineup next season and give Philly a dynamic point forward to build their team around. Best-case scenario, his passing ability elevates the parts around him, his jumper develops and the Sixers are back in business long term. There was a great case for Ingram here, but Simmons may have the most unique skill set in the class. Keep trusting the process. - Jeremy Woo