June 23, 2016
By now, the cat is out of the bag. The Sixers are going to take Ben Simmons tonight with the first-overall pick in the NBA Draft, which has given mock drafters a freebie to begin what is almost an impossible exercise. Here is what the mocksters are saying about Simmons:
While Dunn and Ingram fulfill bigger needs for the Sixers, they keep coming back to this same point in discussions: When it comes to sheer talent and upside, Simmons is hands down the best prospect in the draft. While the team has concerns about Simmons, it will be very hard to pass on him, especially when head coach Brett Brown thinks he can find a way to deploy him as the team's point guard.
Simmons finally agreed, last week, to meet with Philadelphia's front office, and now it's fairly clear that, barring a surprise, the one-and-done phenom from LSU will be the top pick Thursday. Literally nobody I know thinks otherwise. So the 2016 NBA Draft is going to begin exactly how most have believed it would begin for many years -- with Simmons going first overall.
While some teams still believe Brandon Ingram is the best fit for a team desperate for scoring and perimeter shooting, the consensus is that Philadelphia has to, and will, go Simmons. Concerns about his maturity, in contrast to Ingram as a focused and tireless worker, are offset by the bottom line that Simmons is too unique of a talent to pass up. That would be the case whether or not the 76ers trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel to break up what is already a crowded situation at power forward and center. Teams that won 10 games generally cannot be driven by position need.
While Ingram is more pro-ready now thanks to his range from deep—he hit 41 percent of his long-range shots last year to Simmons' 33 percent—everything else goes to the LSU product in a head-to-head analysis. This includes defense, cutting to the basket, getting others involved and even size. Whereas Simmons is 6'10" and 240 pounds, Ingram comes up short and lean at 6'9" and 190 pounds.
With the Sixers finally getting the chance to meet with Simmons and his representatives in Cleveland before game 6 of the NBA Finals, the last hurdle to them selecting him No. 1 overall seems to be cleared.
Simmons had an unceremonious end to the season, failing to guide a young LSU team with chemistry problems and a horrific coach into the Big Dance. But his stats on the year speak for themself. And for all the negativity surrounding him in the media, scouts remain high on him. Was he a great student? No. Did he disrupt the "sanctity" of college basketball? Maybe in some minds. But does that mean he has character issues? No. Simmons comes from a strong family background, and his father played professionally in Australia, so Ben grew up with multiple advantages for a young basketball prodigy. The notion that he somehow has character concerns is pure propaganda. Simmons combines high level athleticism and size with legitimate point guard vision and creativity.
Others: Jonathan Givony, The Vertical
My take: As we said, this one was a layup. The Simmons-Ingram debates could rage on for years, but when it comes to the Sixers, it appears as if they’ve clearly made up their minds.
Down at this point in the first round, there is much less consensus. Still, many of the same names are popping up across the various mocks:
Adding UNLV sophomore McCaw, who averaged 2.5 steals per game and continues to improve his perimeter jump shot, would allow the Sixers to further round out their wing depth.
The 76ers need wings, and after McCaw's performance at the combine I think he has a shot at going here. He's not only a good athlete who can defend multiple positions, but he's also a terrific passer and an emerging shooter.
Bembry is well liked for his toughness and versatility. While he doesn't add shooting, which is what they really need, he is a solid value pick in this range. There's also a good chance Philly's 24th and 26th picks get moved.
Bembry's ability to guard multiple positions at the NBA level should prove useful, and the way he sees the floor and passes could allow him to, at times, play the role of point-forward. All of this is stuff Philadelphia's front office should know well considering Bembry played college basketball down the street at St. Joe's.
The Sixers need shooting in the worst way and Beasley would be a steal at this point in the draft. A stress fracture suffered before the season began at Florida State has hurt his draft position, but he's an elite athlete with deep range on his jumper. He's a very good fit.
An injury has prevented Beasley from working out for franchises. But he still received an invitation to the green room, which suggests he's likely to go in the first round regardless. And Beasley could be a steal this late because, without the injury, he might've been somebody teams sincerely considered in the lottery.
Jackson could become more of a vocal leader, but for a team searching for an identity, adding a traditional point guard to go along with the 6-foot-10 one they're likely to grab at #1 would fill a pressing need for them.
My take: I really like the Beasley fit, as his shot creation deficiencies aren't a deal-breaker playing alongside a point forward like Simmons. He’s an athletic and efficient scorer that can score at all three levels. If Beasley can buy into defending point guards, he could be a useful rotation player.
Jackson is a player that has dropped down into this general range. He shot over 40 percent playing more off the ball his first two years at Notre Dame, which suggests he could be a good fit with Simmons. Jackson is an explosive athlete, too.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann