Great stress comes with having the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, especially in a year when there are two players seemingly worthy of the top overall selection.
The Philadelphia 76ers won the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, affording them the opportunity to select either LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram.
The Sixers, of course, could shock everyone by selecting someone else or trading the pick, but Simmons and Ingram are firmly entrenched at the top of most NBA mock drafts. The real debate centers on which of the two players Philadelphia should add to its mix.
In theory, you could argue that the Sixers can’t go wrong with either player. Simmons and Ingram both have the potential to become franchise cornerstones. The Los Angeles Lakers, who own the No. 2 overall pick, probably are licking their chops at the prospect of choosing whichever one Philly doesn’t.
We’ve seen No. 1 overall picks flame out before, though, so the Sixers can’t take the decision lightly. If they do, we could end up seeing a repeat of 2007, when the Portland Trail Blazers picked Greg Oden first overall ahead of No. 2 pick Kevin Durant. Whoops.
With all of this in mind, let’s look at the tale of the tape.
Height/weight: 6-10, 240
2015-16 stats: 19.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 4.8 APG
Simmons is one of the most intriguing draft prospects in recent years, in large because he has such a widespread skill set. The Australian has the size and strength of a power foward, yet his court vision rivals that of a top-notch point guard. It many ways, it’s LeBron James-esque. (And no, we’re not saying Simmons will be the next LeBron James.)
The knock on Simmons is that he’s not a great shooter — some scouts have questioned whether he should shoot jumpers left-handed or right-handed — and therefore isn’t much of a perimeter threat. That concern is mitigated by his ability to get to the basket, though. And his defensive rebounding and knack for igniting an effective fast break, as well as his overall versatility, should serve him well at the next level.
“Simmons’ talent-level is unquestionably extraordinarily, and he could still develop into an incredibly unique mismatch in the NBA, particularly if he shows a willingness and openness to address his flaws,” Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com wrote in his scouting report of Simmons. “He’ll have to improve his approach to the game significantly, though, if he’s to reach his full potential.”
Simmons isn’t perfect, but if he reaches his ceiling, he’ll be a generational talent.
Height/weight: 6-9, 195
2015-16 stats: 17.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.0 APG
Ingram doesn’t quite have Simmons’ explosiveness or finishing ability (yet), but he’s quick, has an excellent jump shot and can use his length to exploit opponents, both offensively and defensively. He was measured as having a 7-foot-3 wingspan at the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit.
The presumption is Ingram will look to add weight and strength upon joining the next level, as he’s rather lanky and thus ill-equipped to handle the rigors of NBA physicality. He also could improve with regards to creating his own shot, though his ball-handling skills could serve him well in that area.
“As he continues to add strength, Ingram will be a significant mismatch for NBA defenses, as he’s simply too big for most wing players, and too skilled for many power forwards in small-ball lineups,” Jonathan Givony wrote in his scouting report of Ingram.
Perhaps we’re looking at a player similar to Durant, who obviously has evolved into one of the NBA’s elites despite concerns over his lanky frame coming out of college.
Verdict: The 76ers should pick Ingram.
It’s impossible to ignore Simmons’ upside. If he’s able to develop a jump shot, allowing him to space the floor more, we could be talking about one of the best players in the NBA. There were questions in college about Simmons’ motor, though, and that’s somewhat concerning for a player on the precipice of joining a rebuilding franchise.
Plus, Ingram’s length and shooting prowess — two traits that are hard to come by — would make him a great option alongside Philadelphia’s other building blocks (Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel), even though one shouldn’t necessarily draft based on need with the No. 1 overall pick.
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