Scouting Report: Ben SimmonsSimmons has failed to live up to the hype but he is still an amazing talent. (USATSI)

Scouting Report: Ben Simmons

Simmons presents his case for being the first pick in the draft.

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******Just want to get this out of the way: Ben Simmons has been micro analyzed because of the spotlight of being the #1 predicted pick. Let’s begin:

One day you are a lock, the next you are seeing someone else be the first name that the commissioner is calling out. Now this fall can help the player as it lights a fire in their stomach. At his best, Simmons can be the best player in this draft. He is such a special talent and it is important teams and us fans remember that as we all board the Ingram hype train. There are few scouts that have Simmons at #1 any more and that is justifiable. Even though he had a historically great season from a statistical as he averaged an amazing 22 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and an impressive 5.5 APG *per 40 minutes*. Yeah he had quite a year and he did all this in spite of his terrible coaching and situation around him. Now Ben Simmons is not perfect, he has 2 major flaws that will be exposed early on. His improvement in these 2 areas are the only thing that stand in his way from him being a mediocre player and being a superstar that is a player that a franchise can build around for years. Now let’s get to my scouting report which is basically a rant trying to prove why he is still an amazing prospect and continuing to bag on his jumpshot.

Strengths

Offense:

The one mistake teams made earlier on was playing Ben Simmons straight up and that way, with his size and elite athleticism, creates a miss-match. The teams that played him later on finally realized that the best way to stop Simmons was to sag off of him and it did diminish his productivity on floor. Still, he was able to still have some great games attacking the basket and rebounding the ball. His passing, however, deserves spotlight when it comes to offense because he can pass the ball like no other big man in the game. He is incredible in the open floor when it is just him drilling the ball with a bunch of players filling in the lanes. He can hit just about any player on the break. The spot-up shooters were his favorite targets but he also passed it to cutters and hit players right where the ball needs to be so they could go up as best they could. What makes him so special though was the quality of passes he was throwing. They were precise and had a good combination of flash/accuracy that has the wow factor. It is just a notch below some of the best point guards in the league, for a forward that is saying something. He does take risks here and there because he looks for the flashiest pass when a simple pass, one that he is capable of, is enough for that situation. That is Ben as a prospect really, he is really flashy as he makes amazing passes and is amazing in the open court.

His half-court abilities are somewhat underrated but are still very limited compared to what he does in the full-court. When he receives the ball in the post, he can hold his own with an above average post game. His power when attacking, in combination with his ability to finish with both hands allows him to finish well and score with back to the basket. Although it could use some more polish, it will be a think might lean on to produce points earlier on.

For him to be at least a little dependent in the half court, he needs to have some sort of a jump shot. The good news is that the beginnings of a jumpshot is there, it is still far from being at least average. This limitation of his really does limit his potential as he could literally be the next trend setting superstar like Karl Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis but not being able to shoot in this modern NBA is going to limit anyone unless they are just a role specific player.

Defensive upside:

Simmons is a bad defender as of right now. He gets scored on by players that shouldn’t and gets beat in the post far too often. He also usually shows little to no interest when defending. His physical abilities are so outstanding that he really should be a much better defender. His wingspan is mediocre so that already limits him somewhat but there is still no real excuse for why he is so bad. He has flashes of quick lateral movement and real effort switching on defense. Although he isn’t ever going to be a threatening rim protector, he still can get up there and alter shots. His speed allows him to switch onto guards without a problem. The issue with him is that the guard usually beats him because Simmons doesn’t give enough of a f*** to stay with him. If a coach is somehow able to tap into that potential of his, he could become a good defender.

 Rebounding:

Ben Simmons is an excellent rebounder. He can really get up there and get the ball at its highest point. There are lapses of effort when he gives up on some boards but for the most part he gets the ball and pushes it up the floor. That is what makes his rebounding so scary, when he gets it, he is going to push it and it gives the opposing team little time to recover. He either slows it down and allows his teammates to set up, or he finds a lane and hits it. We all already know what happens when he is going full steam ahead. Most of his rebound just come from his height and him just being tall.

Pick and Roll Potential:

The half court had mix results as he can’t space the floor but he did have success in the post. Unfortunately, he was unable to show to show his pick and roll capabilities due to the coaching at LSU. They forced him to play a lot in the post during half court sets and when the ball wasn’t in his hands. He can still run successful pick and rolls with his handle + playmaking skills. He can drive and kick, drive and finish, and hit the roll man. All of those are plays that he can make but the problem comes when the player goes under the screen, therefore neutralizing him and not allowing him to drive. Once he gets better talent around him, or even decent talent, his playmaking abilities will shine even more.

Weaknesses

Outside shooting:

Spoiler alert: Ben Simmons is not a perfect prospect. I cannot stress that enough for all those who believe that Ben Simmons is the next LeBron James. He has amazing potential and could very well be the leading superstar in the next generation of NBA talent but the success LeBron had earlier on and at a younger age will most likely never get repeated. He does share similar qualities to him but they are 2 different players. With that out the way, let us continue.

The Australian product lacks an important skill in this much more modern NBA. A jumpshot. Now, the base of a shot lies within the putrid release. Let’s have look shall we:

ben shot1

ben shot 3

ben shot 2

ben shot 4

The defenders are all showing little effort to contest his shot or just simply don’t even bother and give him the space to shoot. They are daring him to shoot because they know he can’t. Even the shot that he made against Florida in the corner had a hitch that is so bad, it even makes Shaq shiver. That hitch is caused by an issue that is seen with every jumpshot he shoots, the ball doesn’t leave his hands until he is in the process of coming down. Mike Schmitz of the Vertical recently tweeted on the issue:


Ben Simmons has all the resources available to him so that he can fix his shot. Entering the NBA, all of the world’s best coaches will be at his fingertips, all he needs is to really want to fix the shot.

Speaking as someone who has struggled to get his shot back that he once had, it is hard to kick recently acquired habits like sticking your elbow out and shooting on the way down. I was once a knock-down shooter from the 3 point line but I took 2 months off of basketball and I haven’t been able to get back to those days. I finish my shot well, the problem is that my elbow comes out too much and I am pushing the ball more than I should be. A shot falls here and there; followed by a hot streak where one can’t miss but it isn’t as consistent as it once was. Believe me, I have tried to tuck it in more but it just doesn’t feel right. At this point I have given up on fixing it and I just rely on mid range shots and driving to the rim.

The objective of the story is to point out the difficulty fixing someone’s shot. It is obvious that Simmons would like to shoot better but he just simply has issues that doesn’t allow him to be effective. Also, mentally, the fear of shooting from the perimeter caused him to shy away from some attempts. If you are going to miss, you might as well keep shooting to show that he isn’t afraid to and that in itself could help him improve it.

He doesn’t need to become a knock down shooter but at least somewhat competent shooting a mid-range shot. It can be fixed, it is far from a broken shot. If MKG could fix his, so can Simmons (although both being 2 different cases, MKG’s shot was really bad coming out of college).  It won’t be an easy road but it will need to be done so he can achieve his full potential on offense making him unguardable. Until then, his transition to the NBA will be bumpy as he will need to adjust to how they will play him.

Defense:

When Simmons is playing with an urge to play defense, he is pretty good. He can switch onto most players due to his versatility and read passing lanes well so that can manage to get plenty of steals. The problem is that he can’t manage to show consistent effort and productivity. He gets lazy and just swipes at a ball in an attempt to get lucky and create a steal, when he should be guarding him in a regular stance to attempt to stay in front of him. He allows power forwards to push him around and take him out of the play with little to no resistance. Guards go at him and Ben just simply puts his hands up to get a block. The problems arise when his progress from game 1 to the end of the season is looked at and the realization is that he regressed as a defender because he showed less effort each time he was on the court. That leads us into the next category which is going to be controversial.

Effort/Lack of “competitiveness”/Ability to carry a team:

Many people continue to bag Ben Simmons for all of these aspects and most of it is well deserved. He does seems to have lapses of effort and looked like he “checked out” towards the end of the season. The Oklahoma game is one of the games commonly referred to when speaking on his competitiveness. He had a great first half and played well up until the 3 minutes of the second half. From that point on, he showed a lack of interest in getting the ball and most of his actions where to post up but his teammates didn’t give him the ball. Now this does have a lot to do with the misuse of his skills by coach Jones. He should have always had the ball to either play make or score. The lack of talents makes him by far the only go to option. He still managed to make all of those players seems better than they were. Still, he should have demand the ball because Buddy Hield was rallying his team back and it made Simmons look like he didn’t care. It was a chance to upset a highly ranked team and maybe could have helped in their bid into the NCAA tourney. Scouts really started to pile on Simmons when he was benched in the first half of the Tennessee game and he didn’t react well to it. The entire academics point is nothing really to talk about but it is a little alarming that he wasn’t able to meet their minimum requirement. His team and himself in general failed to live up to the hype and his presence was missed during the tournament. Who knows what could have happened if LSU made it?

One man can only do so much for a team. Some LSU players had their moments here and there but the offense was mostly Ben. That responsibility wears on someone and he shouldn’t be blamed for that. Yes, he did choose LSU, but I am sure he wasn’t expecting this toxic of an environment. It is understandable for him to have been burned out by the end of the season. Still, there is no real excuse for the lack of effort on defense and the lack of initiative to win some of these games. To go as far as say he just wants to “pad his stats” is taking it way too far but he does seem to be missing that fire in his core that motivates him to be great that even Ingram has. These “alpha dog” questions are also unfair. He is unselfish because he wants to set up his teammates and a case can be made that he should want to have the ball more and should look to score. It is all about achieving balance by both sharing the ball and also looking to score the ball. His game against Vanderbuilt is a game I constantly look back to as a clear cut example of what an aggressive Ben Simmons looks like. He put that team on his back and attacked relentlessly during the latter part of the game. He needs to show more of that side of his game for him shake the non-aggressive cloud hanging above his head. Although most of this is micro-analyzing a player when immense hype, teams will take this into consideration when evaluating him. Only thing left now is to see how he responds to all these claims.

Film Breakdown

The Good:

agreesive ben

These are the type of rebounds/plays Ben can make when he is into the game and is playing and showing a lot of emotion. Here he simply gets to the ball faster with his instincts and rises up for the exclamation mark on a game is already done.

good ben d 3

This is Ben Simmons’ defensive potential in one play. He is able to stay in front of a perimeter player on 2 separate drives and makes him both pass the ball back out and creates a turnover. He uses his lateral speed and doesn’t just rely on a quick swipe.

good d 1

Ben can get up there and block shots just like these. It shows he fast he can recover on a play and play some actual help defense. He made plays like these early on when he flashed effort and desire to play good defense and create plays on this end.

transition

Although some of these gambles are a bit of a lazy effort to try and get a quick steal, yet his instincts are pretty good and his quick hands allow him to beat the player to the ball. Once he gets a steal….. well you know what happens next.

postup

Really good post up attempt here. He dribbles with his left and when  he realizes that the defender went up with his right hand to block his left handed hook shot, he switched it into his right and finished with a great touch. Great use of his ambidextrousness.

good dive

Instead of letting the defense set up, he turns on the jets and attacks hard to the left side and finishes nicely as he kisses the ball off the glass. The defense can’t do anything to stop him once he gets going, the only hope (The Last Hope) is to foul him.

good pass 1

Just look at this dime by Simmons. He threw a pass on a line right in the middle of 2 defenders and set up the cutter for an easy lay up at the rim. His height allows him to see over the defender and pass it over their heads.

good pass 3

Ben Simmons out here dropping dimes like Damian Lillard. He drove the ball and already noticed the defender starting to come off the shooter and help his teammate so he quickly kicked the ball out into the corner and set up Blakeney for a step in 3 point shot.

good ben pass

Yeah, Simmons can also run plays and can hit all of the cutters and make all the passes needed for the play to develop. Here he also flashes that I.Q. of his as he makes the right read and hits the player in the right spot. He explores his options and tries to make the correct read. This is a really under appreciated aspect of Simmons game as most of his turnovers are him making a flashy pass or making a lazy pass but he constantly used his vision to create good shots for others.

drive 1

Another dish and drive that leads to another assist for Simmons. He attracts so much attention that others players can cut or dive and Simmons can hit any of them. He always chooses the right type of passes to make it easier for the player to put it up.

good ben d 2

More good defense from Simmons. I constantly like to remind people to not generalize a player’s abilities to, “oh he can’t defend.” He can be a good defender when he is interested and engaged. He isn’t like that for most of the time but he can create issues when he is. Here he stays with the guard and keeps with the play to eventually block the shot.

The Bad:

bad shot

We already touched on his jumpshot but here is one of the issues by not having a competent shot, he is unable to at least hit the rim and the player guards the man the screened went under the screen instead of over it.

bad iso

Again, he can’t create something in the half court and the player is sagging a bit but all he can do here is kick it out to a shooter and hope he can bail him out. Ingram steps into a 3 point shot there but there is only so much Simmons can do here.

airball

Yeah, he should stay away from leaning jumpshots as he can barely make them going strictly up and down. Here is the same thing of him shooting on his way down. It is a constant issue that he displays.

bad trans d

Hey Ben, don’t try too hard now. Good job of getting somewhat back during the transition break but he does not even attempt at a block or at least foul him to make him shoot free throws. These are the plays where teams question his drive. In the NBA, doing the little things helps develop good habits so he is going to need to make the other team work for those 2 points instead of a lazy close out. Is that even a close out? Gotta save the energy.

bad d

There is NO excuse for this kind of effort in a tight game like this. At least try and bother the shot a bit more than reaching over his head. For the guard, it is a way too easy reverse lay up. Heck, he was even surprised it was that easy.

Best 3 highlights:

fancy 1

The “bounce/chest passes are boring” pass

step aside

The defender just got out the way and Ben did what he does with the rim in front of him.

clutch

This play was with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. The defender plays off of him but since Ben is so fast, he is still able to get by him. Then he makes a ridiculous shot where, as he is turning, he lays the ball up with the right hand. Clutch. Amazing play.

Projection/Conclusion

Ben Simmons is a top 2 lock. It is between him and Ingram on whether who goes first. Bender is an amazing prospect but Ingram and Simmons are on another level. It is up to the NBA teams to decide if they are willing to develop Simmons on defense and are willing to deal with some motivation issues that he has. Having him fall to #2 could serve as motivation and a realization that not everything is going to be handed to him (I hate myself for sounding like Byron). That fire could be the thing that makes him work harder than ever to fix that shot of his and correct the lack of effort. Over and over again, Ben shows flashes of his aggressive side and it leaves me wanting more. The Vanderbuilt game was the first game where he said f*** this, give me the ball and get out of the way.

The teams had similar record and Wade Baldwin was playing well too. Yet Simmons really played with a passion and desire to win that game. If Simmons is able to channel more of this, he instantly become a better player. When he is motivated like this, he even becomes an average defender.

Overall, Ben Simmons has the body and skill to make him one of the most electrifying superstars in the NBA. That day will not be Day 1 as it was for LeBron James. His climb to superstardom will have its up and downs but if he does get better where he needs to, he will unquestionably a franchise cornerstone type player that a team can build around. The team that decides to draft him will have to build a roster full of good shooters and slashers so that Ben can fully take advantage of his playmaking skills. His highlight reel tendencies will be there the moment he steps on the NBA court. He will be featured on SportsCenter’s top 10 but if he wants to become a much more better player, he will need to become reliable in half court and play at the average NBA level when it comes to defense. Whether he can or cannot is yet to be known but one thing is for sure: Ben Simmons has an incredible ceiling and could very well be that next player to take the throne of being the best basketball player in the world.

Closing thoughts Ben:

ben gots this

 

 

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