Lakers Draft Propsects: Understanding the Hype Behind Ben Simmons

Mar 12, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) looks on from the court 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) looks on from the court 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 /

Brandon Ingram may be the better fit for the Lakers, but the team must not forget why Ben Simmons sat atop the draft board for so long in the first place

Former LSU Tigers’ star, Ben Simmons has been the target of much scrutiny over the last few months. Despite once being considered a lock for the top overall selection in the 2016 NBA draft, similar to Jahlil Okafor last season, Simmons has been associated with a plethora of negativity since the end of his tenure with LSU.

From questions about his academic integrity to his apathetic behavior, Simmons has been put under the figurative microscope arguably more than any other top-rated prospect in recent years.

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Would a team be willing to place its trust on a teenage prospect who couldn’t even take his team to the NCAA tournament?

Would a general manager of a rebuilding team be willing to give the keys to his franchise to a teenager with so many behavioral questions?

Could a team trust somebody whose priorities heading into the draft revolve around securing a lucrative shoe deal?

While his talent is undeniable, Simmons has been associated with all of the aforementioned concerns are legit, and duly so. Yet, at the end of the day, Ben Simmons is arguably the best player in the 2016 draft and the most polarizing college prospect since LeBron James.

As a freshman on an awful college team, Simmons put up historical numbers that put him in very elite company, to say the very least.

Averaging 19.7 points per game, 11.9 rebounds per game, and 5.1 assists per game, Simmons put up better all-around numbers than did Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, and Patrick Ewing in their respective final college seasons.

It is important to remember that the Philadelphia 76ers will ultimately decide where Simmons goes — the Lakers will likely select whichever player the Sixers leave behind. With that being said, however, there is no doubt that Simmons would be a perfect acquisition for the Lakers.

Just ask Simmons’ high school coach at Montverde Academy, Kevin Georgian, who recently called Simmons, “the best basketballer Australia has produced.” When asked whether his prized pupil would be a good fit with the Lakers, Goorjian replied with flying colors.

"If he ended up in LA, that would be just fantastic…But wherever he ends up, he is going to make an impact and help a NBA team. I believe he is going to be an All-Star. I don’t know of any Australians on All-Star teams."

Goorjian is not the only Montverdian who would like to see Simmons on the Lakers. Montverde alum and current Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell, who played with Simmons for three seasons in high school, echoed the same sentiments.

“We’re real close friends,” Russell said of his former teammate. “[When we talk], it’s obvious. ‘Oh, man, I hope you come here.’ It’s obvious. But we talk about a lot of other things.”

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Another former teammate of Simmons’, LSU guard Antonio Blakeney, expressed similar excitement when asked about the talented forward.

“Ben does things that you just don’t expect a guy his size to do. When you play with him, you get used to it and it’s not a surprise any more, but it’s still amazing.”

And it’s not just those close to Simmons who feel that he will be a great player.

According to Sixers’ head coach Brett Brown, Simmons is as good of a prospect as it gets.

"You know, he’s got a hint of Magic [Johnson]… At times you can see like, a younger LeBron, where you’re not sure what position he is…You know, you take that collection of comments and you add it into a 6’10” frame, the comparisons to those two players you know, could be a little bit reckless, could be a little bit ambitious. But there’s no denying that he comes to the draft with a very unique skill package."

While the Magic Johnson and LeBron James comparisons may seem premature, the notion of Simmons drawing parallels to two all-time great players doesn’t seem all too foreign to professionals who have a knack for spotting talent.

Even former Charlotte Hornets general manager Rod Higgins said,

"His ability to play positionless basketball and like a positionless basketball player are all attributes that I would imagine any team would love to have… There have been the LeBron James comparisons, and LeBron can play pretty much one through five. Magic Johnson, when he was rolling in LA, he played pretty much all the positions. It sounds like Ben has the ability to—it’s a lot of pressure to say LeBron and Magic, but when you see some of the things with his passing and his ability to guard probably each position on the court."

With his combination of size, passing ability, and versatility, Ben Simmons is guaranteed to make an impact on the court, regardless of which team selects him. Though questions of his maturity and behavior should be taken into account, his raw talent is indisputable.

Whether he’s a Laker or a Sixer, Simmons is sure to be a quality basketball player, worthy of comparisons to all-time legends.

Next: NBA Rumors: DeMar DeRozan Wants to Stay in Toronto

Goorjian may have said it best: “”He is going to be special. He just has to stay injury-free and keep developing.”