Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram? That’s the question the Philadelphia 76ers will ponder until the 2016 NBA Draft on June 23.
After winning 10 games in the 2015-2016 regular season, the third straight year in which they won fewer than 20 games, Philadelphia won the draft lottery on Tuesday night. The team will almost certainly select LSU’s Simmons or Duke’s Ingram with the No.1 overall pick, and the Los Angeles Lakers, who have the No.2 pick, will take whichever player the Sixers pass on.
Simmons was the projected No.1 pick before the last college basketball season began, and that hasn’t changed with the results of the lottery. Philadelphia will carefully consider Ingram after his private workout with an open mind, but the organization is reportedly leaning towards Simmons. The Lakers, however, might actually prefer Ingram, whom many scouts believe will end up being the best player in the upcoming draft.
Ingram didn’t arrive at Duke with the same fanfare that Simmons received at LSU, but the skills he showcased could help him eventually become one of the best players in the NBA. With his impressive shooting ability at 6’9, Ingram has even received comparisons to Kevin Durant.
The former Blue Devil isn’t expected to be as good as the four-time scoring champ, but it’s not hard to see why he might receive such high praise. Averaging 17.8 points per game, Ingram shot 41 percent from three-point range while attempting an average of 5.4 shots behind the arc. He helped Duke reach the Sweet 16, scoring 23 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.
Ingram was viewed as a true competitor at Duke, and the Lakers were reportedly very impressed by his drive to be a great player when they interviewed him at the NBA Draft Combine, according to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding. It’s a perceived lack of competitiveness that has some doubting whether Simmons should still be considered this draft’s top prospect.
As Duke won 25 games and Ingram made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, LSU went just 19-14 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament. Simmons didn’t play alongside top NBA prospects, but his performance in big games also attributed to the team’s absence in March Madness. He’s been criticized for being passive, and failing to come up big when his team has needed him the most.
Simmons’ shooting ability could also put a limit on his NBA potential. He’s not an aggressive outside shooter, attempting just three three-pointers during his entire freshman campaign. At a time in which two-thirds of the league’s teams are making at least eight three-pointers per game, Simmons’ lack of an outside shot can’t be overlooked. There’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll be able to develop one when he gets into the league.
But despite his flaws, Simmons’ natural gifts give him the highest ceiling of any player in the draft. A few of the NBA’s best players—namely Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green—entered the league as bad outside shooters, improving greatly in just a few seasons. Simmons consistently filled the stat sheet with 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, and his ability to make plays in transition could be lethal on the right team.
Because of his ability to handle the ball at 6’10, Simmons has been one of the most highly touted “one-and-done” players of the last decade. His body is NBA-ready at 240 pounds, and his natural athleticism will make it difficult for Philadelphia to pass on him.
With a 7’3 wingspan (three inches longer than Simmons), Ingram can become an effective defender. But he was inconsistent in that area with Duke, and he isn’t strong enough to guard players of his size that are currently in the pros.
If the 76ers do intend to select Simmons, it doesn’t necessarily mean Ingram will be wearing a Lakers’ jersey next season. Los Angeles is reportedly very open to the possibility of dealing the No.2 overall pick.
After Simmons and Ingram are off the board, Dragan Bender from Croatia is projected to be the next prospect drafted.