Kobi Simmons: Junior Primer

Over the past 15 years Atlanta has become synonymous with elite wings and big men, but point guard Kobi Simmons projects as the metro’s best prospect in the junior class.

How he got here

Kobi Simmons emerged very early in the process. He became a city-wide name even prior to high school, even though his national reputation didn’t begin to solidify until two years ago. At the 2013 KnoxVegas Heat Invitational, Simmons — still a freshman at the time — showcased impressive speed and scoring ability at a tender age.

He had grown to 6-4 by the start of his sophomore season, and he continued following a path toward blue-chip status. Even then, we weren’t certain whether Simmons projected best as a shooting guard or a point — and this dialogue continues to circulate — but from that point forward no one questioned his talent for the major conference level.

Simmons never has strayed far from Scout’s collective mind. When asked a year ago to identify the ultimate 2016 No. 1 point guard, colleague Brian Snow tabbed Simmons as his predicted winner. Clearly, then, he entered the 2014 travel season as a marquee attraction. Besides, with a name like Kobi Jordan Simmons, how could he be anything but good?

I took my first long look at Simmons at last spring’s Adidas Gauntlet event in central Florida. Playing for the Atlanta Celtics, Simmons impressed me with his quickness and perimeter scoring ability. Combined with a rangy 6-4 frame, I bought in to his top-10 status immediately.

Simmons possesses the tools to ascend to the highest level

He performed inconsistently at the NBPA Top 100 Camp last summer, but overall his travel season production was solid. In 15 games with the Celtics during the Adidas regular season, Simmons averaged 19 points per game to lead the team while shooting 52 percent from the field, including 36 percent on threes and 81 percent from the free throw line.

He competed hard for the Celtics to close the summer as they advanced deep into the Adidas Super 64, going toe to toe against some of the country’s top seniors and establishing himself as an offensive force, regardless of class.

To 2015. …

Most everyone at this stage accepts that Simmons possesses outstanding scoring ability. Not only does he excel in transition thanks to his size, speed and explosive leap, he’s a fine shooter who’s streaky yet very capable from long-range. As evidenced by last year’s stats, he also makes defenses pay when he drives and draws trips to the foul line.

Given his size, athleticism and penchant for scoring, it’s unlikely he’d ever tumble very far down a rankings chart — and he looms as a potential NBA draft darling as well.

The primary question this year remains whether he’s a long-term point guard or a wing. He’s clearly much better calling his own number than running an offense, though I’d note that he isn’t selfish, just unrefined.

Defensively, there’s little question in my mind that he can guard either backcourt spot. He’s quick enough and sufficiently rangy to bother point guards, and at 6-4 — and with more strength — he should be able to handle twos.

For the NBA, at least, with its premium on lead guard scorers, Simmons almost definitely projects to play on the ball. For college, on the other hand, he conceivably could be an off-ball combo playing beside someone who serves as the primary facilitator.

There’s also the matter of the point guard pecking order. Simmons is one of three juniors entangled in the competition as the top dog at that position, also including Derryck Thornton (best setup man) and Dennis Smith (strongest and best finisher).

Look for Simmons to remain a fixture in the national conversation over the next 18 months.

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