Ben Simmons has exceptional talent, maybe too much talent for any team to pass up. If the New Orleans Pelicans get the first or second pick in the draft Tuesday night, they could have the opportunity to pick up the 20-year-old Australian.
But should they? Is the decision that simple?
Simmons is the most gifted passer over 6’8’’ to come into the NBA since LeBron James, and it’s scary how creative he can get with some of his passes. There is not one pass Simmons can’t make.
He can toss a perfect outlet pass.
He can riffle passes out of the post to the three point line.
And he can squeeze in a pass where no pass should have gone.
Finding a wing passer that gifted is a once in a generation opportunity. To pair that kind of talent with Anthony Davis could be a thrilling seven-plus year future. Lobs galore.
He would mesh with Jrue Holiday, too. Holiday plays well off the ball; he had a 54 percent effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot opportunities, though less than 8 percent of his shots came from a catch-and-shoot opportunities according to NBA stats. Holiday seldom had other ball handlers create shots for him, and another gifted shot creator would benefit in a pass-happy style of offense.
Simmons has freakish passing abilities, but he also forces many passes through traffic.
Remember in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, (I know you've seen it, if you haven't just go with it) when Rey begins to understand she can channel The Force and Kylo Ren freaks the hell out because he understands that she's only begun to test her newfound powers?
I feel as though (bear with me here) Simmons is Rey, in the context that he's only beginning to understand his elite passing abilities. Simmons will test his abilities and attempt very aggressive and difficult passes, and his aggression often leads to some untimely turnovers. Otherwise known as 'growing pains.'
Simmons has more than just turnover prone passing (1.41 assist-to-turnover ratio) to raise some eyebrows before slotting him as the first or second overall pick to the Pelicans. He has well documented shooting struggles, so much so that Draft Express has an entire segment of his scouting weakness video dedicated to his hesitancy to shoot, especially in late shock clock situations. Though Simmons is such a natural scorer, he may find success without a consistent shooting stroke early in his career.
But outside of his game on the court, Pelican faithful should still raise a brow. He's recently decided to wait on signing his shoe deal with either Adidas or Nike, betting that he can swoon more money from Nike, the lower bidder, if the Lakers become the the No. 1 pick lottery night and presumably draft him.
Kobe Bryant has bounced. It's doubtful Laker nation wants to anoint D'Angelo Russell the new king of Los Angeles quite yet. It makes sense and it's in Simmons best interest to springboard his career in one of the biggest markets in the NBA, and roll with an organization that would give him the keys to the franchise.
In New Orleans, Simmons, at 20, would sit second fiddle to Anthony Davis, the 23-year-old that has already breached the discussion of top players in the league. The pairing could be magical if everyone buys in. But Simmons' shoe stalemate would appear he'd like to leverage his way to Los Angeles, even if they aren't the top pick.
Say you're the Pelicans front office, in need of multiple contributors to compete in a loaded Western Conference. Do you package that (hypothetical) top two draft pick to the Lakers? What can you acquire? A future first round pick and Russell, Jordan Clarkson (restricted free agent this offseason) or Julius Randle? Who knows what general managers would package for a once and lifetime talent like Simmons.
Or, would they wave past the red flags, and draft a talent that could develop with a top big-man in Davis locked up until he's 28?
If the Pelicans do get a top pick and have the option of drafting Simmons... man, this should not be an easy decision.