LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons is amazing, and anyone who says anything to the contrary just doesn’t appreciate good basketball.
But after studying the Tigers’ freshman superstar for almost an entire season now, I am still not quite ready to concede that he will be a sure-fire NBA superstar.
At least not yet.
I think Simmons will eventually become a top-flight NBA star, even one of the faces of the league. I just don’t think it’s going to happen in his rookie season – the way that it did for LeBron James or other the players that experts compare to Simmons.
When I watch the Tigers, I see all of the freshman’s strengths on full display. I see the size, speed, athleticism and court vision. I see that Simmons is a good teammate, a selfless passer and a matchup nightmare.
What I don’t see is a steady, consistent jump shot in his arsenal, and I think that will inhibit Simmons (at least initially) from becoming what people expect him to be: the next great NBA superstar.
At the college level Simmons is able to dominate because most of his opposition will never play in the NBA. That allows Simmons to control games purely with athleticism and quickness alone.
But at the next level, everyone will be athletic and talented. And with the evolution of the professional game, court spacing is everything, which means that if you can’t shoot the ball, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
Let’s think about this: I challenge the readership to list the best 10-15 players in the NBA.
Of course, that list is highly debatable, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that Stephen Curry, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Anthony Davis are in the mix – in no particular order.
What do those guys have in common? They can all make three-pointers.
Right now, Simmons cannot.
He can’t even consistently score outside of the paint for LSU. For as much as Simmons has the basketball for LSU, he’s only attempted three shots from beyond the arc so far this season. He made one.
A chart shown during the telecast of LSU’s win against Texas A&M earlier this season said that more than 90 percent of Simmons’ field goals on the year were under the basket and at the rim.
That works for now, but it won’t cut it at the next level.
In the NBA, Simmons will be awkward to utilize. He will want the ball like a guard, but will want to shoot in the places that centers do. The problem is that if his arsenal is one-dimensional, then opponents will be able to sag back and beg him to score from afar – much like they do in college.
But unlike in college, they’ll be athletic enough to jump with him, run with him and alter his running layups and post opportunities.
So for as good as Simmons is right now, I think there’s still work to be done to become a great NBA player. Maybe I’m wrong, and I hope that I am, but until Simmons develops a consistent outside game, I’m convinced that he begins his pro days as a role player who will have to work himself up to the top.