This upcoming NBA Draft features many intriguing players ranging over all the positions, making teams very intrigued to watch and analyze the prospects this week at the combine. Although there are many players that seem to have the goods to make a swift transition to the league, the 2016 draft class is most definitely headlined by the two monsters: Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. Since Simmons was a high school senior, the rhetoric around the Australian phenom was that he was the for sure number one pick after his one year in college, and for the first quarter of the season no one argued. Slowly but surely however, Duke University’s diaper-dandy Brandon Ingram continued to impress critics, and now with the draft rapidly approaching, he has changed the opinion of many me included on who should be the number one pick.
Ben Simmons is an incredible talent and exemplified how his game would translate well in the NBA this season at LSU. At 6’10 but with a wingspan that has been measured at 7’0, Simmons has great length and quickness to his game. He is able to go up and snatch tough rebounds before they bounce high and long away from the rim. Once he secures the rebound, he would often show his versatility by racing up the floor as the fast break point guard for the Tigers. At 240 lbs., Simmons showed that he isn’t just a big man effective from 8 feet and in. In the NBA now, that is very comforting for teams to see as we slowly start to see the “traditional big man” phase out of play (look at Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert, and other centers losing significance). His numbers were off the charts this season, as he was the first player since 1986 to average 19 points 11 rebounds and over 4 assists per game.
Brandon Ingram, Simmons main competition for being the number one pick also had a stellar year himself at Duke. The lengthy 6’9 Ingram has been measured to have over a 7’3 wingspan and a 9’1 standing reach, all the while possessing the skill set of a three man. Drawing comparisons to the sharp shooting, and impossible to defend Kevin Durant, Ingram displayed that he has range to his jump shot, hitting over 41% of his threes, and over 43% of his catch and shoot tries. His unselfishness and ability to find teammates in the open areas for easy shots, and his personal ability to weasel his way to an open and high percentage shot attempt, made Coach K at Duke make Ingram the primary play maker for the Blue Devil offense. His great length and formidable ball handling for his size, allowed him to get to the rim often giving his defender yet another thing to worry about while checking him. Like Simmons, Brandon Ingram’s numbers this year were pretty unbelievable. He averaged over 17 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, and hit over 40% of his threes per 40 minutes of play.
Taking both players into account and looking at all their attributes, if I was an executive for these teams that will be picking at the top of the lottery, it is a no-brainer in picking Brandon Ingram over Ben Simmons. Critics on the Duke freshman can argue that at 196 lbs., Ingram is too frail to immediately come in and make a significant impact. But looking at his stats this season, he got to the line about 5 times a game. If he could bring that same number of attempts to his rookie campaign he would force defenders to respect both his driving ability and his jump shooting skills that are already pretty polished.
There are a couple of things that rub me the wrong way with Ben Simmons. This year his LSU Tigers went a mediocre 19-14 and didn’t make the “Big Dance” and often times through the season you would see Simmons attitude plummet almost like he was giving off a vibe of “I’m too good for this average team, I don’t care anymore.” With so much hype out of high school, he knew he was going to have the brightest lights shining on him at all times all year, so it concerns me that knowing that, he still displayed traits of a bad teammate and lack of competitive drive. His ability to drive to the basket with such ease and finesse gets teams fired up about him, but outside of dribble drives to the basket, and around the hoop finishing, his numbers were drastically lowered. From 15 feet and in, he was above 70% in field goal percentage, but outside of that range he was in the low 30’s. He only attempted 3 three point field goals on the year hitting one, so that tells me he is no threat from the arc, and frankly if I was a coach of an opposing team, I would tell my defender to sag off even right inside the arc as well. Worrying about Ingram’s frame and finishing around the rim at the next level gives myself far less headaches than does Simmons’ lack of production close to and beyond the arc. You can gain weight, and increase strength, you can’t however teach a guy who has never been effective outside to be just that in the highest level of basketball on the planet. I’ll take Brandon Ingram with the number 1 pick, please and thank you.