Since 2000, out of the sixteen players selected 1st overall in the NBA draft, nine of them have gone on to be NBA All-Stars. The rest, not including recent picks Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, have gone on to lead lackluster careers and have been labeled “busts.” The title catches on quickly and is almost impossible to shake. The unwanted epithet carries with it a timeless stench, that taints the careers of many. So now, as the college basketball season comes to a close, all eyes turn towards the NBA Draft. Throughout the season, the fate of the #1 overall pick has been practically sealed. Aussie and LSU Freshman, Ben Simmons, was a virtual lock for the top spot, but after late season struggles his weaknesses have been emphasized and scouts around the NBA have begun to question his true potential as a star in league. The questions being asked are more than valid. His lack of a jump shot and carelessness with the ball suggest that he might struggle at higher competition levels. Is Ben Simmons an extreme talent? Absolutely. Do I think he’ll live up to the hype he’s been receiving? Absolutely not.
One of my biggest concerns about Simmons is his jump shot. Simmons, being 6’9” and a good ball handler, would most likely be placed at the Small Forward position in the NBA. This season he shot 33% from behind the 3-point line which appears to be a respectable number… until you realize he attempted 3 three-point field goals the entire year. No SF in the top-45 in scoring so far this season has attempted less than 1 three a game. His 67% at the line is pedestrian at best. In the NBA this season, Jerami Grant is the only qualifying SF who shoots lower than 70% from the stripe. If you were to suggest that maybe Simmons could play as a Power Forward in the league, his numbers still are much below the expectation for a stretch-four. The top-10 scorers at the PF position combine to average over two 3-pointers attempted per game. Simmons simply can’t live up to these shooting expectations.
Granted, Simmons is incredible when he puts the ball to the floor and drives. He’s athletic, has a developed post game, and many say he is a great playmaker for his size. Is he actually though? He averages five assists per game which seems to be indisputable evidence that he has playmaking ability, but when taking into account the situation he is in, it would be concerning if he didn’t put up the impressive assist numbers that he does. He is on a mediocre LSU team where he attracts by far the most attention from defenses. Due to this, those numbers might just come down to occasionally finding an open man off a double team. Although that alone takes skill, the importance of the statistic is questioned even more when you see his turnover numbers. Simmons averaged 3.4 turnover per game in his freshman year at LSU. No player since 2001 has made the All Star Game after averaging over 3 turnovers in a college season. As great of a ball handler he is said to be, he can’t handle defensive pressure and pays the price for it.
It’s impossible to tell whether hype is justified or not until proven on the court. It might be unfair to slap Simmons with the bust label before he has stepped foot on an NBA court, but he has been labelled a star by many under the same circumstances. Nothing is set in stone… well, until it is.