Former LSU forward Ben Simmons has been widely regarded as an incredible talent and it was pretty much a done deal that Simmons’ freshman season would be his only one in Baton Rouge, La. One former NBA coach is skeptical that Simmons is ready to take the next step.
Former New York Knicks and Vancouver Grizzlies coach Stu Jackson told Sports Illustrated he isn’t sure that Simmons will be a slam dunk prospect at the next level.
“But there’s just something about the way Simmons has either handled himself or been handled by his camp that gives me a little bit (of) cause for pause, just in terms of whether or not mentally and personally he’s actually ready to make this jump to the NBA level,” Jackson said.
Simmons is one of the most unique NBA draft prospects in recent memory. At 6-foot-10, he handles the ball like a point guard and has the court vision of an elite floor general. He averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists last season, but has been criticized for his lackluster jump shot. Simmons shot 56 percent from the field, but attempted only a few three-point field goals during his freshman campaign. Jackson appears concerned about Simmons’ ability to develop once he’s drafted.
“He is a tremendous, tremendous talent and a unique talent in terms of his ability to see the basketball floor, make other players on the floor better. I just am a little bit hesitant with what I know as to whether or not he’s ready to step onto this stage and under this microscope in the NBA and get better.”
Simmons has a good chance of being taken No. 1 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, which takes place Thursday night. The other player worthy of being selected first is Duke forward Brandon Ingram, who is a more dynamic scorer but lacks Simmons’ playmaking abilities.
The Tigers floundered during Simmons’ first season, despite relatively high expectations for the 2016 season. LSU finished the season 19-14 and did not appear in a postseason tournament.