By Rahul Lal
With the 2016 NBA Draft fast approaching, we’re taking a detailed look at and comparing some of the elite players expected to be drafted in the lottery in our Draft Dilemma series. These players will have a chance to be a part of the next generation of NBA stars and that legacy begins on draft day. The NBA Draft will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on June 23 at 7 p.m. ET.
Ben Simmons vs. Brandon Ingram
Ben Simmons (LSU, Fr.) and Brandon Ingram (Duke, Fr.) will be battling to be selected with the top overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. While each player is incredibly talented, they each bring something different to the table and have had incredibly different careers thus far. Simmons was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and was named to both the SEC and NCAA first-team All-American squads. Ingram won the ACC Freshman of the Year award while also being named a second-team All-ACC pick. Here’s a look at each player’s stats, measurements, offensive and defensive ability, motor, potential, NBA readiness and ultimately who wins for each category.
Ben Simmons Measurements and Stats:
Age: 19, Height: 6’10”, Weight: 240 lbs., Vertical Reach: 8’11”, Wingspan: 7′
19.2 PTS, 11.8 REB, 4.8 AST, 2 STL, 0.8 BLK, .560 FG%, .670 FT%, .333 3P% (1-3 all year)
Brandon Ingram Measurements and Stats:
Age: 18, Height: 6’10”, Weight 196 lbs., Vertical Reach: 9’2″, Wingspan: 7’3″
17.3 PTS, 6.8 REB, 2 AST, 1.1 STL, 1.4 BLK, .442 FG%, .682 FT%, .410 3P%
The offensive end is where both of these players shine and will likely make their mark as NBA players. Simmons is a largely position-less player as he plays like a point guard but operates as a forward. He can truly be the modern version of the point-forward position. His passing ability and court vision is truly elite and he has great athleticism to compliment his high basketball IQ. We see it every day: the most dominant teams in basketball are the ones who have forwards who are also great distributors, which is a much needed skill for success. The biggest knock on Simmons has been his shooting as he rarely opted to shoot a three pointer (only three attempted all season).
Where Simmons struggles is the beginning of Ingram’s strengths. Ingram is something of a knock down shooter with near-perfect shot mechanics, an incredibly high release and a quick trigger. Ingram will step into the NBA at the perfect time as shooting big men are just about the most coveted players in the league. While instincts for the game can’t be taught, he struggles due to his weight. At only 196 pounds, Ingram had trouble in college when playing against physical opponents – something he will face plenty of at the next level. Often times, Ingram would be knocked off balanced while boxing out and forced to take fade away shots in the post. This can be fixed over time but requires some work.
Verdict: While both players are special on the offensive end, Simmons’ mix of size, athleticism and vision are unlike anybody in the league and can be molded into one of the most lethal forces in the game.
While the offensive side for each player is incredible, the defensive side of the ball leaves plenty to be desired. Simmons tends to seem uninterested on the defensive end often giving up open lanes and failing to contest some open shots. He also has shown a tendency to swipe at the ball fairly often leading to unnecessary fouls. Even with these factors, his defensive deficiencies can be masked by his athleticism and NBA body though he will struggle as a rim protector if forced to play down low. The biggest plus for Simmons is that he already has an NBA body and won’t be muscled by NBA defenders; he also has a knack for the ball and is able to use his athleticism to contribute to his two steals a game – something that will transfer over to the next level well.
Ingram is a solid perimeter defender and being able to have a perimeter defender at the 4 in the NBA is very important in today’s small ball basketball (see, LeBron James/Draymond Green). While Ingram can help on the perimeter, he will struggle given his current build to guard bigger and more physical defenders. In college, opposing teams ran lots of picks on Ingram as he had trouble fighting through them but his supreme length would often help him recover in time to contest or block a shot – something that will be less forgiving at the next level.
Verdict: The edge has to go to Simmons here. Even with his struggles as a defender, a lack of focus is easier to fix than a body issue. Simmons also has more ways to mask his struggles at the next level.
There are serious and legitimate questions about Simmons’ motor. While being one of the most talented players at the collegiate level in years, he struggled and his team gave up early and often. He faced plenty of criticism for deferring to teammates in late game situations as well. His saving grace is his competitive drive and “extraordinary” work ethic.
When Duke’s veteran big man, Amile Jefferson, went down in the beginning of the season, Ingram immediately stepped up to turn into “the guy” when his team needed him the most. NBA scouts have raved about his character and the simple fact that he is a proven winner having won four high school basketball state championships and reaching the Sweet Sixteen in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Verdict: Ingram has the clear edge here even with Simmons’ legendary work ethic.
Potential and NBA Readiness:
If Ben Simmons ever develops a jump shot (or secretly has one but never was asked to use it in college), watch out. Simmons was blessed with incredible instincts and an ideal frame to thrive in the NBA and has the ability to play multiple positions right away. His potential is something out of a video game if he can get his mentality right or is drafted by a coach who can be a great teacher for him.
On the other hand, Ingram has just as much potential as Simmons given that he is over a full year younger and won’t even turn 19 until September (yes, you read that right). He has the length to be a serious match up issue on both sides of the ball as well as the basketball IQ and shooting ability to turn into a go-to scorer. Having been coached by legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski in college, it is safe to assume that he has been well coached and will be prepared to handle the NBA like recent Duke draftees (Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Kyrie Irving among others).
Verdict: While both players are special and present a truly difficult dilemma for the 76ers, Ben Simmons presents the greatest upside with the lowest risk.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.