Chad Ford, ESPN’s resident college scouting guru, recently posted about LSU’s Ben Simmons, after Simmons’ 21 point, 20 rebound, 7 assist gem against Marquette. Scouts have been drooling about the 6’10” Australian for the last year. In early projections, Simmons is looking like the top pick in the 2016 draft. Celtics fans will be watching the draft lottery with anticipation thanks to that Nets pick. Though Simmons isn’t the only player to drool over, and certainly doesn’t have the best shooting skills as of today, he is being described in ways that remind some of Magic Johnson– a power forward with the vision of a point guard–and the athleticism of recent top pick Andrew Wiggins. Let the myth-making begin:
Simmons had his first big game of the year at the Barclays Center on Monday versus Marquette. Fifty-one NBA scouts and execs attended and Simmons delivered, scoring 21 points, grabbing 20 rebounds and dishing out seven assists in a loss to Marquette. He made several spectacular plays in the game — finishing above the rim in transition, taking his man off the dribble in the half court and making a number of creative passes to his teammates for easy scores.
“You don’t find players his size, with his elite athletic ability that see the game the way he sees the game,” one GM said. “He’s unselfish to a fault. He’s always trying to make the right play. And he’s just scratching the surface. Look at how the other freshmen are faring right now. It takes a while to adjust. What does his box score start looking like when he adjusts?”
In July, Ricky O’Donnell, writing for SB Nation, gave this commentary, describing the best way to build around Simmons:
The ideal way to build around Simmons is to have two 3-and-D wings, a shooter and secondary creator at point guard and a rim protector at center. If that happens, you can run everything through Simmons out of the four spot and let him pick defenses apart with his vision and passing.
Two 3-and-D wings:
- Avery Bradley turns 25 in a week. Bradley is currently shooting 43% from deep so far. With Smart injured for what could be 4-6 weeks, Bradley will be taking on a much heavier load on defense. It will be interesting to see if Bradley can maintain his shooting touch.
- Marcus Smart turns 22 in March. The knee injury comes on the heels (pun!) of the lingering toe injury. Smart’s incredible defensive instincts and tenacity make him both a lock-down defender and makes me worry about his 82-game season longevity. Smart’s corner three-point shooting will be important to watch.
- R.J. Hunter is 22. With Smart out, Hunter will see more minutes. Stay tuned.
Shooter/secondary creator at PG:
- Isaiah Thomas turns 27 in February. Thomas fits that description perfectly.
Rim-protector at C:
- Amir Johnson will turn 29 in May. The Celtics have a team-option for 2016-17.
- Jordan Mickey is only 21, and doesn’t have the offensive tools to become a starter, but could turn into a nice back-up small-ball center.
If the Nets pick somehow ends up becoming #1 (15.6% chance if we fast-forwarded the season today), the Celtics would undoubtedly have themselves a modern power forward who could become a top NBA player.
Then they’d just need to sign another rim-protector with all that cap space. 2016 free-agent centers:
Roy Hibbert (too old and limited?)
Festus Ezeli (restricted, Warriors won’t give him up if they can help it),
By the way, Danny Ainge and Mike Zarren were among those 51 NBA executives watching Ben Simmons the other night…