Before Ben Simmons began his freshman season at LSU, there was little doubt he would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. While Simmons averaged a double-double, the Tigers failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and his standing as the No. 1 prospect came into question with the rise of Duke freshman Brandon Ingram.
Simmons and Ingram likely will be the first two players selected — the order depends on who you ask — at the draft in June, but Simmons’ former high school coach thinks you would be crazy to pass on him with the No. 1 pick.
“He is going to be the best basketballer Australia has produced,” Kevin Goorjian, who coached Simmons at Box Hill High School in Melbourne, Australia, told Omnisport. “There was a quote that came up that if you get the No. 1 pick and you don’t take Simmons, you should be fired. I’m totally behind that. He is the No. 1 pick. It’s clear.”
Goorjian’s natural bias goes without saying, but the Philadelphia 76ers, who were awarded the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, are leaning toward taking Simmons, according to a report from Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding. Current Sixers head coach Brett Brown coached Simmons’ father, Dave, when he played professional basketball in Australia for the Melbourne Tigers (1989-96).
While the debate about who the No. 1 pick should be will rage on until June, Simmons seems to have a good chance to be one of the top Australian-born players in NBA history. The 6-foot-10 forward would be the 16th Australian native to play in the NBA, according to basketball-reference.com. Notable players on that list include current Cleveland Cavaliers and former Duke star guard Kyrie Irving, and center Andrew Bogut of the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and just under five assists for LSU last season, as he was named a consensus first-team All-American.
“He is going to be special,” Goorjian told Omnisport. “He just has to stay injury-free and keep developing.”