The New Orleans Pelicans have just seven games remaining on their schedule. They are current behind the Sacramento Kings by two whole victories and it is possible, although not assured, that the Kings will rack up another victory or two which will practically lock the Pels into the sixth spot in the NBA Draft Lottery.
We begin our roundtable discussions on the draft with the highest possible hopes.
If the Pelicans win the lottery, who should they select?
Kevin Barrios: Admittedly I'm not much of a college basketball fan. If there is any NBA game on during a college game - I'm watching the pros. If the weather is nice during a college game - I'm riding my bike. I've read up on prospects and watched a few collegiate contests, but the rest of the staff's opinions should carry more weight.
Honestly, I'd try to flip the pick for Jimmy Butler the second the ping pong ball pops up. Butler is a tenacious perimeter defender who can play the 2 or 3 depending on how the draft/free agency plays out. His offensive game has grown by leaps and bounds, and he's been pretty durable considering the heavy workload he's had in his career. However, I'd also try to trade down with another team to add multiple pieces. I'd love to trade back with Phoenix to pick Buddy Hield with their pick and also acquire either Alex Len or TJ Warren in the deal.
If this type of deal doesn't present itself, though, I'd draft Ingram over Simmons as his offensive game shows a lot more promise as does his aggression.
Joseph Billiot: Ben Simmons every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I graduated from LSU Law and now live in Durham, North Carolina, so I have watched Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons probably as much as anyone. I still don't even see how this is a real debate. I like Ingram a lot. I think he is solidly the 2nd best prospect in the draft. BUT I think he is way, way overhyped compared to Simmons.
Many people have compared Brandon Ingram to Kevin Durant. To me, that is laughable, and unfair to Ingram. Durant averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 assist his freshmen year at Texas. Ingram is far behind that at 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists per a game. You know who is closer to matching Kevin Durant's college stats than Brandon Ingram? BEN SIMMONS who averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists per a game his freshman year.
Beyond all of that, I think Ben Simmons has franchise player potential. You know who is else is a skilled, physically imposing, moody player who lacks a jump shot? LeBron James. I think he is pretty good. So ya, I take Ben Simmons.
David Fisher: Without question to me the correct answer is Ben Simmons. He's the guy who projects to have the highest possible ceiling of any prospect in this draft. Drafting for fit with the first overall pick makes no sense to me. Anthony Davis can fit with anyone. Jrue Holiday can play on or off the ball. Those are the only core pieces under contract; everyone else is replaceable.
It's true that Ben Simmons has weaknesses. He's probably best suited to defend the power forward position, which is where Anthony Davis prefers to play. Simmons also has a complete aversion to shooting thus far in his career.
There's more to spacing than shooting and the ability to pass, nay, to see the game before it unfolds is a skill set far more difficult (impossible?) to teach than putting the ball in the hoop. Simmons (67%) and Ingram (68.2%) were practically a wash at the foul line. Ingram has superior 3-point shooting numbers while Simmons is the vastly superior finisher around the basket.
Ben Simmons shooting woes are lessened because expecting him to spot up without the ball in his hands immediately mitigates the advantages he provides. Simmons should have the ball and use his sublime vision to create opportunities for himself and others. Run Simmons+Davis pick and rolls with Holiday and players X and Y spacing the floor.
There are few places Simmons could realistically go in the draft and not be the main attraction out the gate. New Orleans, thanks to Anthony Davis, is one of those locales. Ben Simmons is the pick.
Jonny Harvey: Brandon Ingram. Two key reasons:
1. Top wing players are hard to find, and when one falls in your lap, a GM needs to pounce. He’s aggressive when attacking the rim, and I think his length will be welcomed as a defender.
2. I’m all in favor of letting Anthony Davis stay at the four spot, and not clogging the front court with power forwards. Ben Simmons is an extraordinary talent, and him with Davis in a small ball lineup could be super fun, and your basketball nerd in you is orgasming at the thought. But Anthony Davis playing 35+ minutes at center per game is not sustainable, especially considering his recent injuries and injury history.
Quentin Haynes: Brandon Ingram. The selection of Ingram is largely in part of where we think Anthony Davis will play long-term. I find the Pelicans to be better if they play him at center and they already have the center option that fits next to him when he has to slide down to power forward in Omer Asik. I’m of the mind that the Pelicans have wasted some wins in the past by not going to Davis at the five and surrounding him and Jrue Holiday with shooters and versatile defenders, but that’s a conversation for another day.
If the Pelicans and Davis prefer to stick at power forward, then that position is solidified. I look towards the small forward/wing phylum as an area of need, and thus, Ingram makes the most sense. It’s key to remember that these kids are young and still have ways to go as players, but Ingram seems to be the most interesting player to me outside of Ben Simmons. He can space the floor, he has the tools to be a fine defender, and seems like a perfect athlete to put in Darren Erman’s defensive system. There are weaknesses, but they seem correctable. He’s rail thin, but I imagine he can fill out enough in time. He’s not a great defender now, but who is at 18 years old? He’s shooting 58% at the rim according to Hoop-Math.com, but again, he’s 172 pounds soaking wet. I think that can be fixed.
The comparison to Kevin Durant is wild to me, but only because I’m never a fan of comparing guys to legends (which is why I think the Buddy Hield-Ray Allen comparisons are silly). I think after a year or so of development and figuring it out, I believe Ingram could be a really good two-way talent. You’ll see the offensive and defensive upside in flashes before he takes off in a year or two, serving as an excellent second or third scorer alongside Anthony Davis.
Zachary Junda: Ben Simmons. End of discussion.
Most of his critiques are picky at best and down right stupid at worst. I watched Simmons play in person just about every night and he's the real deal. People dismiss his near 20-10-5 average like its nothing or a failure. And his defense is fine, he couldn't contest as many shots as you'd like because LSU had absolutely no front court depth behind him and if he got in foul trouble it was game over. It's not his fault his head coach is an underperforming, incapable narcoleptic.
Oleh Kosel: I've waffled back and forth on this topic over the last few months. Earlier, I was dead set on Ben Simmons -- he undeniably possesses the highest ceiling -- but more recently, potential fit has made me rethink my position. Don't dismiss it too quickly. Ball dominant players sometimes have trouble fitting alongside similar types of teammates, and things are made infinitely worse when the system is not conducive to their success.
Remember when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh first came together? The Heat struggled to a 10-8 record out of the gates in their first season. Although they lost in the NBA Finals, they eventually figured things out and helped bring two championships to the city of Miami. However, it took a lot of time, smart strategic changes by Erik Spoelstra and for LeBron to take the lead over everyone else. Plus, don't forget they were all young veterans who were in their prime.
Ben Golliver recently stated it well.
Yes, whichever team selects Simmons will need to give him the ball from day one and surround him with multiple wing shooters, moves that could require displacing current players or investing other assets to build a functional offense around him. To me, his playmaking ability and natural command presence serve as worthwhile justifications for those moves.
The Pelicans would have to blow up their roster so close your eyes Dell Demps. Goodbye Tyreke Evans; you're out as well Jrue Holiday. Alvin Gentry, you and your staff no longer serve any purpose either. Oh, and Anthony Davis, take a back seat.
All this upheaval just to take a chance on a kid who may end up performing similarly to LeBron James? Thanks but no thanks. The team's centerpiece is already in place, so Brandon Ingram, you and your three-point stroke, come on down to the Crescent City. As the Golden State Warriors and their soon-to-be best W/L record in NBA history have proven with Stephen Curry, one transcendental star with perfect complimentary players appears to be the model.