FanPost

Just Fucking Take Simmons

It's been awhile since I came back here, and it'll probably be awhile until I'm back again, but this post isn't part of my draft series, it's just a very clear, very straight-forward Sixers-centric rant. Buckle up.

Ben Simmons is a bona fide superstar prospect, a guy who has top 5 NBA player potential, a guy who has legitimately only one weakness, and one that can be worked around very easily. I know that shooting is en vogue these days, but every team has at least three rotation players who can't shoot, and it's often the quality of THOSE players who determine the ultimate upside of a team. Ben Simmons can play PG. He can play C. He can play SF or PF in the right lineup. He can pass, rebound, score efficiently, and was an elite perimeter defender when given the chance to showcase those skills. You know who else can do everything but shoot the 3? Russell Westbrook. LeBron James. Tracy McGrady. Magic Johnson. Giannis Antetokounmpo. It's pretty tough to come up with players who can pass, rebound, score, and defend who AREN'T at least some level of star, even if many of them can't shoot. You know why people compare Simmons to those guys? Because it's pretty much impossible to find low quality guys with all of those attributes. If you have those attributes, you're an automatic star.

What are the marks against Simmons? He can't shoot the 3. Fine, whatever, who cares? Does it mean he doesn't fit as well in to what we already have? Actually, NO!! He's an insane PG prospect, and we have a couple of 3rd PGs. We desperately need a PG. You can't play him with both Noel and Okafor, but you can't play Noel and Okafor, so the fit problem isn't Simmons. We don't know about the Embiid pairings, but we're literally watching Westbrook/Adams/Kanter give major fits to top teams, so maybe Simmons + 2 bigs can work too. And if not, move 2 of Okafor, Noel, and Embiid. Simmons is good enough that you build around him and make whatever moves you need to to make it work.

Other marks...he's not competitive/he has attitude problems. I can only assume that people who say these things have just, like, never watched Simmons and are basing it on his last game of the season. LSU was truly abysmal this year. They had one guy who could hit the 3, and he missed both the beginning and the end of the season. If you only watched the last game (or even last few games), you saw Simmons and a bunch of guys who were simply not major conference quality completely overmatched by much better teams. Simmons was legitimately double and triple teamed, found open teammates, who often couldn't even hit the rim. If you don't like that Simmons gets frustrated and doesn't produce as well when double and triple teamed at all times and his teammates are so incompetent that they can't hit wide open shots, well, I don't know what to tell you, but I don't think it says he's not competitive or has attitude problems. If anything, his problem was that he was too competitive, often trying to do far too much to carry his team. These simply aren't real concerns.

And, well, that's about it. Those are the only major bad things I've heard about Simmons, and neither has any weight whatsoever. If anything, the biggest legitimate criticism I've heard about Simmons' game is that he has no idea what hand he's supposed to use to shoot and it manifests finishing at the rim, at the line, and shooting in general. It's fixable, but it's worth keeping an eye on. But it's no reason to significantly downgrade Simmons.

Now, let's look at Ingram. Somewhere around December or January, somebody (I think DX) decided "Ingram is better than Simmons" and once one person said it, others started saying it. Put simply, it has no basis in reality. Ingram is simply not the caliber prospect Simmons is. This becomes very clear when you actually read what DX, the site who actually says Ingram is better than Simmons, says about him. Let me just quote it:

Ingram is extremely fluid for a player his size, possessing long strides and nice quickness getting off the floor, but does not show elite explosiveness at this point in time, struggling to turn the corner or finish above the rim through contact.

Improving his ability to make shots off the dribble will be a major key in becoming a go-to guy potentially at the NBA level. He shoots a somewhat flat ball, converting just 30% of his 80 attempts this season. His lack of strength and explosiveness made it easier for defenders to get up in his body and knock him off his spots, and he can't always turn the corner and rise up over defenders at this stage of his development, looking somewhat upright with his very long legs, high hips and narrow lower body.

Ingram struggled to finish around the basket at times against higher level competition, converting just 48% of his half-court looks inside the paint on the season overall (SST). He got to the free throw line at just a decent rate (5.6 per-40), and surprisingly struggled at times once there, making just 68% of his attempts. While he showed the willingness to go into the post and use his size and footwork, mostly to shoot smooth turnaround jumpers, he simply doesn't have the strength to operate in there consistently at this stage.

With that said, Ingram still has a ways to go to become a more consistent defender, something that clearly didn't become a priority for him until arriving in college. He can get a little sleepy at times and lose his focus, closing out lackadaisically, standing around off the ball and looking hunched over in his stance guarding the perimeter. Duke had one of the smallest rotations in high major college basketball and couldn't afford for Ingram to get in foul trouble, which didn't always lead to him operating with the highest intensity at all times. Once again, getting stronger will help, as he tends to get caught up on screens quite a bit on the perimeter and can get pushed around inside the paint.

If you watch DX's videos, his weaknesses become clear. What are his weaknesses? Um, just about everything that isn't an open jump shot. He struggles to create off the dribble, often throwing up wild shots in the paint if he can even get there. Brice Johnson was able to completely shut down his driving game, for example. He doesn't shoot well off the dribble. He's a fine rebounder, but somebody with his size and length should be a better rebounder. On defense, he pretty much can't do anything. I'm not exaggerating. He can't keep guys in front of him. He has no idea how to navigate a pick. He can't defend the post. He's legitimately a bad defender right now. He uses his length to occasionally generate blocks and steals, but many of them are from behind after he's already been beat, which won't work nearly as much at the next level. Hell, his strengths in their "strengths" video are literally "Tools, Versatility, Potential, Intangibles". You can go check. He doesn't have a single strength that is "he's good right now". His weaknesses are "Strength, Creating, Consistency", or, ya know, the things you actually need to be successful at the next level.

Now, Ingram is still a fine prospect. He's not ready to contribute this year, but given his age and shooting ability, he'll probably be a fine roleplayer within a few years. But he doesn't have the offensive or defensive ability to be a superstar. People give him a Kevin Durant comparison, but that is a super lazy comparison (as many comparisons are). He's long and can shoot the 3, and that's about where the comparison ends. What are better comps then? Harrison Barnes. Robert Covington. Dorell Wright. Steve Novak? He just doesn't have the quickness or explosiveness necessary to be an elite offensive or defensive player. He's a roleplayer on both ends. That's nice to have, and in this draft is probably still a top 5 pick. But there's simply no reason to believe he's more than that other than wildly declaring it. Wild declarations should have some support. Not even DX supports their own wild declaration.

And if you think I'm giving short shrift to Ingram by only quoting DX for him, let's go to DX for Simmons' weaknesses:

In the half-court, Simmons is much more of a mixed bag. He saw some success operating with his back to the basket this season, but struggled when asked to act as a primary ball-handler and facilitator in pick and roll and isolation situations, partially due to LSU's very poor spacing.

While Simmons makes his free throw attempts at a decent rate (67% at LSU), his outside shooting has always been considered the biggest weakness in his game. He's a 12/50 (24%) 3-point shooter in the 74 career games we have data on since he first appeared on the scene at the 2012 FIBA U-17 World Championship, and hasn't shown much progress in the past four years in this area, which is a major red-flag in today's NBA.

Opponents were able to neutralize him very effectively in the half-court as the season moved on, simply backing five feet off him. Simmons would respond by getting very passive in turn, looking very conscious about firing up jumpers, even late in games when his team desperately needed him to be aggressive. To reach his full potential and effectively be paired with other players, Simmons will likely either need to significantly improve his jumper, or be surrounded by plenty of shooters at all times as a primary ball-handler.

The problem is that Simmons rarely plays up to his full potential on this end of the floor. He often looks very lazy here, not making any effort whatsoever to close out on shooters and avoiding contact and physicality in a very concerning way when challenged by opposing players. He often resorts to swiping down at the ball aimlessly in hopes of generating a steal, instead of getting in a fundamentally sound stance and trying to stop his man from scoring.

While the red flags around Simmons' defense were there from the moment he stepped on the floor at the college level, as LSU's season went on, he gradually gave less and less effort here, even in his team's most important games, which raised serious question marks about his competitiveness in NBA circles.

Simmons has literally two weaknesses according to DX. One is that he's lazy on defense, which is exactly what they say about Ingram. A big difference is that DX noted that Simmons was a great defender when engaged, while they noted that Ingram had significant weaknesses even when engaged. The other weakness is that he can't shoot and needs to be surrounded by shooters, which, while a weakness, can literally be completely negated by getting shooters. Ingram has many weaknesses and not a lot of strengths right now. Simmons is the opposite. Even the site that ranks Ingram ahead of Simmons doesn't stand behind it. It's literally something you say to be controversial and to get pageviews. It's clickbait. It's nothing more than that. That's because you get guys like Ingram to put around guys like Simmons. Ingram is a complementary piece. Simmons is THE piece. They're simply not close.

Look, Simmons is better at literally everything other than shooting. Shooting is important, but it's not the be-all end-all. Every team plays guys who can't shoot. Simmons is likely to be one of the best of the best. You take him and make any trades you need to to make it work. You don't pass on Simmons for a potentially nice piece.

Just. Fucking. Take. Simmons.

(More draft analysis can be found at BusterDucks.com, and you can follow me @BusterDucks)

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