The Celtics are in an enviable position right now, sitting at 42-30 and ranked fifth in the Eastern Conference. Along with their strong season and possible playoff run, Boston also owns the Brooklyn Nets 2016 First Round pick, a pick that is starting to look like it will be in the top five. As exciting as things are on the court, things are just as exciting off the floor for the front office and the scouts because with a ton of cap space and contract flexibility, the Brooklyn pick, another potential lottery pick from the Mavs, and their own selection, Boston is in prime position to make a big jump, be it with drafting a franchise player or landing one through a blockbuster trade, which they NOW have the fuel to pull off.
Danny Ainge's dream is for the Brooklyn pick to be in the top two so he can land either Brandon Ingram or today's subject, LSU small forward Ben Simmons. Simmons is an interesting prospect because he has shown that he absolutely has the talent to be the top pick, but his overall makeup and character might push him down to the second or possibly the third selection.
Simmons certainly isn't lacking height or athleticism, standing at 6"10, weighing 240 pounds, and he has fluidity and smoothness in his game that will transfer very well to the NBA. Simmons has been compared to Lebron James, which is just ridiculous, but he is excellent in transition and that will translate to his NBA game next season. Any team that is looking to run and play the transition game would love to have Simmons, but only about four teams have a shot to draft him.
Boston would be a perfect fit for Simmons because Brad Stevens loves to get his guys running, but the Celtics will need some luck in the lottery if they're going to have a shot at landing the talented Australian. Brooklyn is currently the third-worst team in the NBA record-wise, but only one game separates them and the Suns. If Boston ends up with the third pick, they would most likely try everything possible to either trade into the top-two picks or trade the pick for a young, established All Star that can help push Boston from a good team that can win one playoff round to a team that can compete for the NBA championship.
Even if Boston has a chance to draft Simmons, there is no guarantee that they want him. He's talented, there is no doubt about that, but there are major question marks about his defensive effort and motor. Can he be a top player for a championship team? That is the question Boston asks when it comes to acquiring or drafting superstars, and if they don't think he has the mentality to get that done, he won't be wearing green. If he can prove that defense won't be an issue and he'll continue to improve his half court game, including his shooting, he has a real chance to be a top-10 player in the NBA and a centerpiece that can be built around.
In Simmons one year at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, two steals, and he shot 56% for the season. He doesn't shoot three pointers, which is ok because there are a lot of players with his size that don't venture out 24 feet to shoot, but he does need to improve his medium range shot, and he also needs to keep developing a low post game, because he could be devastating due to his quickness and knack for scoring around the rim. Defenders started to play off him towards the end of the year, and due to his shooting woes, it seemed to take his aggressiveness away. If he's coachable, that is something that can be fixed.
Simmons is one of the more talented players to enter the draft in the last few years, but if his defensive intensity doesn't improve, he'll struggle to be a complete player in the NBA. The talent is clearly there, it's just a matter of want; does he want to be great, or does he want to pile up stats on bad teams? It's the million dollar question for the teams at the top of the draft.
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