The Lottery Mafia writers make their pick as to who should be selected with the top overall pick during this Thursday’s NBA draft.
As often has been the case in past NBA drafts, two players have dominated the conversation as to who should be picked first overall. Recently, we’ve debated over Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley. In both cases, there’s only been one correct pick in hindsight. While it would be unfair to suggest that only one of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will develop into an All-Star, it does at the very least suggest that there could be a wrong pick. Maybe this is why many like to say the Los Angeles Lakers “won” the lottery by finishing 2nd — they can’t be blamed for picking wrong since they don’t have a choice.
Again though, suggesting that either Simmons or Ingram won’t work out before they’ve played an actual NBA game is unfair to both. Still, one has to go first, so I asked The Lottery Mafia writers. Here are their answers:
Josh Cornelisson – If we’re asking who has the highest ceiling, the answer is Ben Simmons. His ability to handle and pass as a power forward is at a once-in-a-generation level. But in a jumpshooting league he can’t shoot, he showed no leadership abilities at LSU, and his defense leaves much to be desired. Brandon Ingram, on the other hand, is the complete package as a combo forward, with the sharpshooting and defense that Simmons simply doesn’t have. Add in his solid passing and moving without the ball, and Ingram has the versatility and skills to fit into any lineup. Ben Simmons has to be surrounded with exactly the right sort of players, while Ingram could be a star in any system with any set of teammates. For me, that makes Brandon Ingram the worthy #1 pick.
Zach Reynolds – It’s a close call, but I’d opt for LSU forward Ben Simmons with the number one pick. Outside shooting concerns aside – and I know that is a big aspect of today’s game – there is not another player in this draft with Simmons’ combination of athleticism and basketball IQ. He is a consistent triple double threat who should benefit from the open spacing in the NBA today. The 76ers would essentially be drafting Simmons to a blank slate, and could build around him with shooters and a shot blocker inside (of which Philadelphia has options). Hinkie began the tanking process to land a star, and all signs point to Simmons as the player in this draft with the most potential to reach that pinnacle.
Gabe Allen – I wrote a couple more words on this topic a few weeks ago, but here are some of the meat and bones. I’m much more confident in drafting Ingram than Simmons. I think he immediately makes everyone around him better without forcing teammates into positions where they may never be comfortable. Standing at 6-9 with a 7-3 wingspan, Ingram boasts unbelievable physical advantages similar to Kevin Durant, and he is a prototypical player in the modern NBA. He needs to get stronger and better on both ends, yet that seems like more of a given than Simmons learning how to swish shots from outside the paint. It’s not going to be as easy for Simmons to reach the rim in the NBA as it was in college without proving he can knock down shots, and despite his 6-10, 240 lb. frame, his 7-0 wingspan is not quite as long as Ingram’s. There are absolutely no shortage of reasons for taking either guy at No. 1, but I’m siding with Ingram here.
Daniel Coughlin – Brandon Ingram has a pretty decent shot and combines that with a physical frame suited to the modern NBA. He has some growing to do, but I always make the assumption that these young players grow into their body. The floor for Ingram and Simmons doesn’t matter to me at all, they are both talented and will be good. The ceiling also doesn’t mean much to me. A player’s mentality generally has everything to do with their actual performance.
Simmons seems to come with roughly the maximum amount of red flags about his personality and commitment to working hard on improving an already impressive skill set. Also, he currently does not have the ability to shoot and score. Life is going to be hard for him for a few years. He may develop, like Blake Griffin, but he may turn into the next Andrew Bynum. Given the Sixers have had experience with Bynum, they probably remember what happens when you sign a player he’s about those paychecks and is not about actually getting out on the court and dominating. Josh Lloyd of Red Rock Basketball mentioned that we all mature from when were 18-years-old and he is right. A caveat to that is most of us aren’t surrounded by an entourage, fabulously wealthy, and haven’t sat in the spotlight as “the next LeBron” or whatever else they are saying about him since we were 15 or 16. I’ll always take a slightly more modest ceiling for a more firm skill set and a player who is going to show up everyday ready to improve and work hard (Kawhi Leonard, anyone?).