Scouting Report: Ben Simmons

Mar 12, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) controls the ball in the first half against the Texas A&M Aggies during the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) controls the ball in the first half against the Texas A&M Aggies during the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Name:   Ben Simmons       DOB:  7/20/1996 (19)   School: LSU

Height: 6’10              Weight: 240   Projected Position:  SF/PF


2015-16 Stats:

19.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg, 3.4 tpg (34.9 minutes per game)

56.1 FG%, 67.0 FT%, 60.0 TS%, 56.1 eFG%

26.4 USG%, 9.6 ORB%, 26.8 DREB%, 18.2 TRB%, 3.1 STL%, 27.4 AST%, 17.4 TOV%, 1.4:1 A/TO



Post Offense

Other than in transition, a large chunk of Simmons’ scoring attempts came with him playing in the post, where he was a tough match-up for any regular post defender. Simmons does a good job getting low and wide, fighting for position, sealing off his man, and setting a good target for an entry pass. He is able to set up on either block and make a move over either shoulder, though he is much more effective when setting up on the left block, especially going over his right shoulder, where he shows a very good drop step, as well as the ability to make a quick dribble move to the rim. Simmons has also shown a decent short hook shot, mostly with his right hand, plus the ability to face up and drive to the rim, especially when he has a great match-up. I will touch on this more in other sections, but Simmons is reliant on scoring with his right hand, even though he shoots left-handed, and will often force shots with the right when the left would be an easier shot. He will show some ability with his left when right around the rim, but not as often as he should.

On either block, Simmons is comfortable with a short hook shot, where his touch has improved over the past couple of years. Simmons will also use his size well to get off a quick turnaround jumper, which has become a go-to move on the right block, going over his right shoulder. Simmons has good footwork, showing fluid movement, though some of his moves can take a little long to develop. Simmons can have trouble scoring against long defenders, especially if he tries to force a shot with his right hand, on the same side as his defender. Simmons is a good option in pick-and-roll sets, opening up well and using long strides to get to the rim quickly to finish. Simmons is also great in cutting situations, whether it’s a basket cut off of penetration or flashing to the middle and making a quick move to the rim. Simmons is a good low post passer, using his size to see over the defense, and throwing strong passes to weak-side cutters or to open shooters on the perimeter, especially when he commands a double-team.

Perimeter Shooting

Simmons’ issues with perimeter shooting were well-known before he entered college, and little he showed during the season seemed to change that. The biggest thing for Simmons will be to find some consistency and confidence in his jumper, as he hasn’t looked that bad, at times, from 15 to 20 feet. Simmons will also need to work on finding consistency in his motion and release. As mentioned above, Simmons seems to shoot most of his shots around the basket with his right hand, but he shoots jumpers with his left. I don’t believe switching to shooting right-handed jumpers is the answer. When he can step into his jumper fluidly, his mechanics look fine, save for some flatness on the release, at times. It seems that Simmons just doesn’t have the confidence in the shot to always step into fluidly, whether off the catch or the dribble, and it may just be a matter of putting in the work to get the right feel. When his shot looks horribly off, there seems to be either excess movement in his feet or legs, or he short-arms his release into the shot. Simmons may never become a great shooter, but it’s probably way too early to dismiss that he won’t become a decent threat, at least in the mid-range area, with his ability to create space off the dribble.


At 6’10, Simmons is certainly rare with his ability to handle the ball, and he is a match-up problem from most defenders, at any position, on the perimeter. Simmons uses both hands well, and can attack the basket in either direction, though he likes to go left, if he has the choice. He has a good set of advanced dribbles, such as a crossover and a very good change-of-pace dribble, which he uses to clear space, and his long strides make it tough for even quick defenders to stay right on him. Finishing around the basket can be an adventure; sometimes fantastic, sometimes very awkward. Simmons prefers to finish around the basket with his right hand, and he can be creative with his use of floaters and angles, but it’s not always the best option, especially when he drives to the left so often. He ends up bringing the ball to his right hand, often where there is a defender, and even though he can finish through contact, he will get a lot of shots blocked at the NBA level. Simmons will finish with his left, but rarely, and makes even less sense when he shoots free throws and jumpers with his left. Also, Simmons can have some problems with body control when he takes those long strides, and he needs to watch a tendency to lower his shoulder when he gets stopped by a help defender.

Paired with his ballhandling, Simmons’ court vision and passing ability are both also a rare commodity at his size, especially when he’s acting as the primary ballhandler. His size allows him to see anywhere on the floor, and he has the ability to throw a variety of passes, strong or with touch, to find teammates, whether Simmons is on the perimeter, in the post, or attacking the basket. Now, he still has some problems with forcing passes into tight spaces, and he doesn’t always hit teammates in a great spot for them to try and score quickly, but his versatility should be an asset. Simmons also has ability as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, and he already has shown patience in dealing with double teams, but he does need to progress through his reads quicker, and be able to get the ball to a teammate before the defense has rotated over. Also, without a viable jumper for defenders to worry about, it makes it easier for teams to scheme a defense to stop him.

Free Throw Shooting

As with his perimeter shooting, Simmons’ ability at the free throw line is a cause of concern, though his issues seem fixable enough that he could make marked improvement quickly.  The big problem comes in his motion to his release, where he has a tendency to shoot the ball out, with little arc, as opposed to shooting the ball upwards. With his ability to get to the free throw line – Simmons had a 77 percent free throw rate this past season – even getting his free throw percentage from 67 to 77 percent could add up to a lot of points. As mentioned above, how he plays on offense does lead to an ample amount of free throw opportunities, and should continue to do so at the NBA level.

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Perimeter Defense (On/Off Ball)

Simmons may have many of the tools to be a good perimeter defender, but inconsistent effort negates a lot of them. On the ball, he generally positions himself well, with a good defensive stance, using his long arms to disrupt what the ballhandler is trying to do.  His lateral movement needs work, though when he tries, he is good over short distances, but he will get caught playing on his heels, leaving him unable to react to changes in movement quickly. Also, Simmons has a tendency to use his reach to swipe at the ball, which worked for him on occasion, but good ballhandlers were also able to use it against him as the season wore on by getting him to lean in and take a chance for a steal. He can be slow to close on shooters, though his length can often be enough to disrupt a shot, if he is in position. Off the ball, Simmons moves fairly well, especially when playing passing lanes, and he does a good job keeping his arms in position to get a deflection. His positioning can use work, as he tends to cheat excessively towards the lane, but he does show good instincts and awareness at times, allowing him to anticipate and jump passing lanes.

Post Defense/Help Defense

Often LSU’s biggest player on the floor, Simmons was often tasked with defending the other teams’ post players, so much of his defense occurred down around the basket. As on the perimeter, effort is an issue, and Simmons often seems more interested in looking for a rebound and getting down on offense. Simmons can position himself well between his man and the basket, but he has a tendency to stand straight up and gives him man some cushion to make a move with little resistance. He reacts fairly well to his man’s movements, but he doesn’t show the kind of footwork he does on offense. Simmons can be a bit slow in moving with his man, and he will give up quickly if his man makes a rapid move to the rim. Also, he doesn’t have the strength yet to prevent players from trying to back him down in the post, but he does a good job keeping his hands up, at least trying to make players shoot over him. Simmons has shown good awareness and, at times, has been a very good help defender, but again, the effort isn’t always there. Simmons has the ability to be a decent shot blocker with his reach and leaping ability, but unless he’s already in position, he won’t often look to make a play on the ball. Simmons can be a good pick-and-roll defender, hedging well on the ballhandler, getting wide to contain, and doing a good job recovering to his man, but as the season wore on, the attempts became more and more half-hearted.


Simmons is a fantastic rebounder on both ends of the floor, relying on his instincts, length, and athleticism to get to the missed shot quickly. On the offensive boards, Simmons tracks the ball very well, maneuvering into position as the ball is on its path to the rim. While not very physical, he is quick off the floor. Simmons often relies on trying to tip the ball in off the miss, with mixed results, but he does create a lot of extra opportunities. On the defensive end, Simmons probably shows the most aggression on the floor when going for a rebound, likely because he sees it as an opportunity to push the ball on offense. He is very active, maneuvering around players to get into position, and he does a good job extending and trying to get the ball at its peak off the rim. Simmons can have some problems with more physical opponents bodying him out of position, but he will still try to use his reach to make a play. Once he secures the rebound, he is off and running up the floor pushing the team on the break.


Transition offense is a mixed bag with Simmons, though it is often where he is at his best. He loves to push the ball up the floor quickly, using his long strides to force defenders to sprint back and prevent them from stopping the ball. As mentioned earlier, he has great vision, which is even better in the open floor, and he can be tough to stop if he gets an open lane to the rim. However, sometimes the pace gets the best of Simmons, and he makes a lot of careless errors, including trying to force the ball to teammates in tight spots, and with his inability to pull up for a jumper if needed, he can find himself out of options if the defense makes it back to meet him around the basket. Still, this is where the uniqueness in Simmons’ game can be most visible, and I expect it to be a big part of how he plays at the next level.


There has been no more unique player in college basketball over the last few years, but it also makes Simmons’s weaknesses more glaring once you see what he is capable of. At 6’10, Simmons’ ability to handle the ball certainly sets him apart, and he thrives on pushing the ball in transition. He has great vision, though his decision making is still a work-in-progress, but his passing ability should translate well to the NBA, no matter how he is used. Simmons does show some versatility on offense, whether it’s attacking the basket in isolation or off of a screen, as well as being able to set up in the high or low posts. His offense can be awkward, at times, especially with an overreliance on using his right hand to shoot around the basket, even if his left would be the better option. Simmons has shown some good post moves and a nice, though inconsistent, touch around the basket. Perimeter shooting is where Simmons runs into some problems, to the point where he will pass up reasonable, open looks. Whether it’s consistency, confidence, or form, I do think Simmons will fix it enough to be able to knock down open mid-range looks, but it will be a burden on him early on.  Defensively, Simmons has a lot of tools that good defenders need, but a lack of effort hurt him all season. At the next level, I’m not sure yet who he’ll be able to defend consistently, as he needs to work on everything from positioning to footwork, but the foundation is there for him to improve if he wants. Simmons does put in a lot of efforts on the boards on both ends of the floor, though he will need to be stronger to battle amongst NBA forwards and centers. Still, he anticipates very well and uses his long reach and timing to keep missed shots active, even if he can’t get to it the first time. As mentioned, Simmons can be a sight to see in transition, though the same decision-making and control issues that plague him in the halfcourt become a bit more pronounced when in the open floor.  Simmons didn’t seem to show very much that was new in his one college seasons, and the lack of effort was stunning at times. He has seemed to coast by on his size and ability to this point, but he will need to put in more work at the next level. Even when he seemed to carry the team on his back, which he had to do in the second half of games often this season, it just left you wondering what took him so long to take over. There is an immense amount of talent here, and there are still so many areas where he can, and will, improve, but it’s on Simmons now to make the most of it.                  

Draft Value:  Early Lottery – #1-5

While the backlash in the past month or so about Simmons has been seriously overblown, the questions about his effort and weaknesses won’t go away over the next few months. The lack of ability to knock down open jumpers, as well as some deficiencies on defense will also need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Still, Simmons is a very unique player, and will still be seriously considered by anyone with the top pick. This may be a rare case where fit may come into play, rather than best player available, when deciding who to take at number one, as it can be tough to see where Simmons’ skill set may be best used by some teams who have a good chance at that top pick. The spacing at the NBA level may be a benefit to him, especially with his ability to create mismatches off the dribble, but it can also hurt him on the defensive end, where it’s unclear who he will be able to defend well right now. Even with all the questions, Simmons could be a future All-Star, maybe more, but he will need to work on his weak areas consistently to find improvement.

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