Nate’s Top Five: Ben Simmons Still Best Draft Choice

Jan 20, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores guard Wade Baldwin IV (4) brings the ball up court against Tennessee Volunteers guard Detrick Mostella (15) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores guard Wade Baldwin IV (4) brings the ball up court against Tennessee Volunteers guard Detrick Mostella (15) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

Every team wants that next superstar with unlimited potential to lead the franchise to its next Golden Age. The good news is he already exists, and his name is Ben Simmons.

Back in June ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas had the chance to watch Ben Simmons at the Nike Basketball Academy. This wasn’t a college game, but merely practices and scrimmages hosted for the best players in the country.

Bilas gave his thoughts regarding the highly touted prospect. His response? Pretty much on par with the rest of America when asked about Simmons.

Bilas is right about one thing: the versatility that Simmons is blessed with rarely ever comes around. The last player to demonstrate such a skill set in a forward’s body? LeBron James.

Now let’s not get carried away for a second. I’m not directly comparing Simmons to James and saying he’s going to capture the same level of success throughout his career. Throwing those expectations on any young kid is downright unfair.

However, there’s no ignoring the smoothness, confidence and intelligence that make up Simmons’ overall game.

Coming in at 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds, Simmons is an athletic specimen that we haven’t seen in the NBA given his feel for the game arguably since Magic Johnson. He’s a cerebral passer who knows where his teammates are at all times, and has the ball handling and quickness to get to where he needs to on the court similar to any point guard you’d find in the league today.

Not only is he the best assist man for his size in the country be it in college or professionally, but Simmons also has a knack for scoring inside and out-rebounding the best bigs down low.

Why is this important? Because this illustrates the fact that Simmons is a ready-made playmaking power forward perfectly capable of adapting to the modern NBA.

It’s counterproductive to have two post players on the court together who both can’t step out and knock down a jump shot or make plays for others. Like it or not the Golden State Warriors and forward Draymond Green have revolutionized the game because of his multi-faceted approach on both ends of the floor. Green can make the right pass on one end and come down the other and guard multiple positions while helping on defense and rotating over for a blocked shot.

Simmons can do all of those things potentially better than Green given his size and length advantage on the Michigan State product. How many guys Simmons’ size can run around and guard him on all areas of the floor? Very few.

Even Johnson himself couldn’t help himself from mentioning Simmons and James in the same sentence in terms of overwhelming potential.

This isn’t any ordinary college kid we’re dealing with here. We’re talking about the real deal.

Still have doubts despite hearing praise from some of the top basketball analysts around? Maybe Simmons’ numbers at LSU so far will change your mind.


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Those still not enough for you? Check out his advanced stats. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.


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Bottom line: Simmons is dominating the college landscape and building his legacy while piloting a squad filled with players who aren’t anywhere near the level he is.

If he’s doing this as a part of an underachieving 14-8 unit, just imagine what he’ll do with professionals wearing the same jersey as him.

There’s no question he’s going No. 1 overall in the draft, and if he leads this LSU team out of the SEC with a decent seed in the tournament, he’ll challenge for NCAA Player of the Year when it’s all said and done.

Regardless of the accolades he’ll receive this season, nothing will affect his chances of excelling in the pros.

He’s still the best draft choice available, and he’s only getting better.

Nate’s Top Five NBA Draft Picks After Ben Simmons

1. Brandon Ingram, Duke University

It’s been a weird year for Duke, as they’re sitting outside of the Top-25 for the first time in nine years. Forward Amile Jefferson has been out due to injury, and seeing as he was going to serve as the team’s defensive quarterback it’s understandable that there’ve been struggles overall especially considering the lack of frontcourt depth for the Blue Devils.

One prospect has given Duke a bit of hope at least.

Ingram has been spectacular all year as a scoring machine and offensive focal point alongside the team’s leading scorer Grayson Allen.

At 6-foot-9 Ingram has the length to shoot over the defense with ease, and he hasn’t been hesitant to do so either. On the year, he’s shooting 41.1 percent from three-point range and 48 percent from the field overall leading to 17 points per game.

His free throw shooting seems like a troubling sign, as poor efficiency from the charity stripe has served as an indicator of a lack of range at the next level. Ingram’s young though meaning he has plenty of time to get that area of his game polished up before he hits his talent peak.

Given his length and scoring potential, he’s the clear-cut No. 2 pick behind Simmons in this year’s draft. Whichever team lands him will get a nice consolation prize, if we can even call a star-caliber talent like Ingram a second place trophy.


2. Kris Dunn, Providence College

Dunn has all the physical tools and understanding of the point guard position to excel at the next level. The one knock he’s had on his game is his shooting, primarily from three-point range.

This season Dunn has responded in a big way knocking down 38.7 percent of his triples on 3.6 attempts per game. He’s taking and making more shots from beyond the arc which shows that he took the time to work on his form over the summer and the results are right in front of us.

He’s cut down on his turnovers, fouling less and getting to the line more frequently, all areas that needed minor improvement.

Dunn is the best point guard available in the draft, and any team that needs a new floor general should look no further than him.


3. Henry Ellenson, Marquette University

All Ellenson’s done this season is put up huge numbers on both ends of the floor. Quite frankly, his stats alone should put him on the radar of NBA teams.


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Has he been perfect statistically? No, but that shouldn’t scare off anyone from looking at him as a legitimate top-five selection.

His shooting numbers from deep have plenty of room for improvement, but the stroke is there. Ellenson is confident when shooting and he’s knocked down a solid percentage of his free throws so I don’t see any reason why he’s not the next prototypical stretch-4.

Rebounding, scoring and blocking shots are all specialties of Ellenson’s game. His two-way activity will get him drafted high in a weak field.

4. Buddy Hield, University of Oklahoma

Why has Hield gotten so many comparisons to Stephen Curry in recent weeks? I’ll show you.

He’s knocking down 51.7 percent of his three-point attempts and scoring 25.8 points per game. Hield has had multiple impressive outbursts and only gets better as the season rolls along.

Fearless doesn’t even do his confidence justice. Just like Curry Hield takes a lot of shots where his coach is probably going, “No, no, no, no, YES!!!” and having to stand up after falling over from a near stroke on the sidelines.

Confidence is the most important part of a shooter’s makeup and Hield has tons of it. He’s improved every year in college and now stands worthy of a top pick in this year’s draft.


5. Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt University

This may surprise a few people, but Baldwin deserves the hype because of his production and physical tools.

Standing at 6-foot-3 with a massive 6-foot-10 wingspan, Baldwin has the body of an NBA point guard. But it’s one thing to have all the physical attributes and lack the skill to operate at the next level.

Fortunately for Baldwin, he’s done enough to raise a few eyebrows this season and then some.

He’s averaging 14.4 points on a slash line of .474/.468/.797 while grabbing 3.6 rebounds and dishing out 4.4 assists per game.

Flirting with a 50/50/80 season is no joke for any player, but doing it in the SEC adds a little more merit to Baldwin’s credentials.

What scouts want to see more of from Baldwin is his playmaking as he doesn’t drop dimes as often as some would like him to. Throw in his tendency to turn the ball over and you can understand why the concern of if he’s a true point guard or not is there.

His decision-making isn’t always perfect, but his explosiveness and potential are on display each night, and quite frankly the kid’s put on a show each time he’s been on the floor.

The Russell Westbrook comparison is there and I’m not taking it off the table. This kid is the real deal as a prospect and deserves to get attention at the top of the draft.