Ben Simmons is good. I mean really, really good.
He’s put up video game numbers early on at LSU — 19.9 points, 14.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game just seven games into his career. Simmons’s last outing was his best — albeit against North Florida — where he put up 43 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocks. He’s looked like a lock for the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
But there’s just one problem: his inability to shoot could be an issue in the new-age NBA.
Simmons has shot just two three-pointers all season, both in a loss against College of Charleston last Monday, and he made one of those. His drive-heavy attack works in college against 6-foot-5 power forwards or plodding big men, but what will happen when he makes his way to the NBA and faces elite athletes who can stay in front of him and can’t threaten the defense with a jump shot? Just how bad is his lack of a jumper? Take a look at his shot chart (via ShotAnalytics.com):
Most of his shots have come at the rim, and there’s not much coming from outside the paint. His ability to finish around the basket is certainly impressive, as his athleticism and quickness can stand out amongst the trees down there. Simmons is left-handed, but he uses both hands extremely well around the rim and makes him hard to guard.
But while Simmons has every shot in the arsenal around the basket, his form and technique on jump shots needs to be improved. Check out this video of him shooting during the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit that was this past summer:
His right-hand placement on the ball needs to be adjusted, and it’d help if his follow-through was more consistent each time.
His style of play is reminiscent of Julius Randle when he played at Kentucky. Of course, Randle had a lot more talent surrounding him, so there was less need for him to do everything. Randle shot 58 percent of his shots at the rim and made 62 percent of them during his lone season in college despite not having a jump shot. Randle isn’t quite the passer Simmons is and only finishes with his left hand, but he’s had some success early on in the pros despite his lack of range.
With Simmons likely playing for a team in need of talent, it’ll be interesting to see how his game translates and how that team uses him. If Philadelphia has the first pick, do they start Simmons at small forward or power forward to bring one of their former lottery bigs (Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor) off the bench? How would he be utilized? Would Brett Brown have Simmons initiate offense as a point forward?
The Lakers would probably have to slide him into the small-forward slot with Randle on board, but he’s yet to show any type of range, which would hurt spacing (similar to Philadelphia). Maybe the Boston Celtics (who will get the Brooklyn Nets’ pick) would be best off taking him if they land the top pick, shipping away a bunch of their assets at power forward and building around Simmons. I’m sure Brad Stevens could get the best out of Simmons, even though there’s plenty of work to do in his game.
One positive to note is that Simmons is shooting 74.5 percent from the free throw line, which is promising for future development. Although that’s not the highest percentage, it shows there’s some potential for a decent shooting stroke there, and it’ll only improve as he gets to the highest level with shooting coaches fine-tweaking his mechanics.
Regardless of his shooting issues, it’s clear that Simmons is the prized gem of the 2016 class. At 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, Simmons has NBA power forward size, athleticism and quickness. His ability to rebound and impact the game on the fast break is devastating. He can make every pass in any situation, and he has an elite handle to get anywhere he wants on the floor. These are NBA skills that allow teams to build their offenses around him moving forward. Jump shot or not, he’ll likely be the first pick in the draft thanks to his all-around game and potential for improvement moving forward.