For those of you that don’t know, Ben Simmons has been touted as the prize of the 2016 NBA Draft since before he stepped foot onto the LSU campus. The rookie sensation from Australia has drawn comparisons to LeBron James and Erving “Magic” Johnson for his combination of size and play-making ability and NBA teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers have given up all hope of immediate success in hopes that they can land Simmons as a franchise-changing piece to the puzzle.
As the collegiate season moved on, though, NBA scouts have started to realize that, in today’s NBA, Simmons has a ways to go in terms of being able to make an immediate impact. His skill set, while elite in a number of ways, may not match up with the what NBA teams are looking for in 2016. In the modern NBA, teams want to spread the floor, they want a stretch-4, and they want two-way players. So far at LSU, we haven’t really seen any of that.
Enter Buddy Hield. The sharpshooter from Oklahoma brings an NBA team everything that they could want from a bench player. Hield defends well, rebounds well for his size (5.5 per game at 6-4), and shoots the lights out. Hield is a borderline 50-50-90 guys for God’s sake! A senior guard still leaves something to be desired from a play-making standpoint, but he has shown consistent growth, especially in his outside, over the course of his four years at OU:
In a league where a knock-down shooter is a coveted commodity, Hield’s abilities are more NBA-ready than Simmons. Hield could step onto an NBA roster and immediately become an asset off of the bench. If you add Hield to a three-point challenged team like the Miami Heat or the Milwaukee Bucks, he would immediately add a dimension that the team did not previously have. He is shooting 48 percent from beyond the arc! And, most importantly, he is aggressive. He knows he can shoot and he is going to if he gets the look.
Now by no means am I saying that Hield will have a better NBA career than Simmons. Simmons’ ceiling is miles above that of Hield, but right now, with the NBA trending toward a league where all five positions are expected to at least have a three-point shot in their arsenal, Hield’s stock is on the rise.
Simmons has not shown the ability, or even the willingness, to knock down a mid-range jump shot, let alone a three. Simmons has taken just three shots from beyond the arc during the season and has made just one. His seemingly hesitant attitude has caused some alarms to go off in the head’s of every NBA executive and his stock, after a miserable performance in the SEC Tournament and a refusal to participate in the NIT Tournament, is up in the air.
Simmons has looked disengaged a number of times throughout the season. While Hield has certainly had some bad performances, the most recent being his six points on 1-8 shooting against West Virginia in the Big 12 Championship semifinals, its never because of a lack of trying. Hield is a shot taker, and a confident one at that. Even if he is struggling, he has a scorers mentality and will never fade out of a game. Simmons, while he still makes an impact on the boards and even as a playmaker, sometimes seems to be out of touch on the offensive end. There is some talk around the country that LSU head coach Johnny Jones was partly responsible for the way that Simmons was used in the scheme of the offense, but a player of Simmons’ caliber should be able to make an impact no matter what their supposed role is.
Simmons will not drop below the top two picks in the NBA draft. Some draft experts still have him being picked with the number one overall selection. But after once being seen as the clear-cut number one pick, some doubt is creeping into the minds of those making the decisions on draft night. Hield is projected to go in the top-10 of this summer’s draft but, as of right now, his impact is something that almost every team values. Every team could use a super-sub who can come in off the bench and light it up. Stretch the floor, knock down outside shots, and always attack. These characteristics apply to Hield, but unfortunately not to Simmons.
With Hield getting ready to lead his team on an extended March Madness run, Simmons’ college basketball career is over, since he announced that he not coming back next season. Hield and Brandon Ingram are the only potential top five NBA draft picks left in the NCAA tournament, where players like Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown, and Jakob Poeltl are all out of the tournament already. Simmons, though will have to sit at home and watch, after a disappointing end to a once promising NCAA career.