By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
The worst kept secret in professional basketball became official Thursday night, when the Philadelphia 76ers made Ben Simmons the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
“I always want to be the best player,” Simmons said. “They selected me at one, so it means a lot. They believed in what I can bring to franchise.”
Simmons, who averaged 19.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 4.8 APG in 33 games at LSU on his way to first team All-American, SEC Freshman of the Year, and first team All-SEC honors, became the second LSU player drafted first overall in the NBA Draft (Shaquille O’Neal, 1992, Orlando Magic) and the eighth LSU athlete selected No. 1 overall in his or her sport. LSU is now tied for third in NBA history with two No. 1 picks in the draft. Only Duke and Kentucky (three each) have had more.
“He impacts everything,” 76ers President Bryan Colangelo said. “I think he’s going to impact the outlook for the organization, the outlook for fans. I think he gives them reason for hope. He’s going to make the players on the court that he plays with better. That’s one of the key traits we liked about Ben.
“Talent, size, he’s got everything,” Colangelo added. “He’s the full package as a basketball player. You talk about the things that he’s capable of doing on the court, it can be special. If things go right, he should have a long career, he should have an impactful career. I think Philadelphia should be happy to have Ben Simmons. Fans are going to be thrilled with what they see.”
With Simmons’ selection, LSU has now had 15 first round picks since 1952 and seven selections in the top four picks. It’s the second straight year an LSU player was taken in the first round, after Jarell Martin went with the No. 25 pick to Memphis in 2015. All-time, LSU has had 55 NBA Draft selections.
Philly reacts to Ben Simmons. pic.twitter.com/zpTkAJIYWe
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) June 23, 2016
Though Simmons may end up handling the ball plenty for Philly, coach Brett Brown said they’ll start him as a 4, who could get work at the 1 eventually.
“There are times that, if you caught me, I would think that I want to just treat him as a true point guard — just give him the ball,” admitted Brown. “You can go back and forth, but I think it’s the hardest position to play in the NBA. I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. Maybe he evolves there, but to start with, that’s [not] how we’ll play him.”
Among Simmons more impressive statistical accomplishments at LSU:
- He tallied six games of 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Since 2005, all other No. 1 NBA draft picks combined for just one (Blake Griffin).
- He was the first player in SEC history to finish in the top five in points, rebounds, and assists.
- He averaged more points per game than James Harden, more rebounds than Andre Drummond, more assists than Rajon Rondo, and more steals than Kawhi Leonard.
- He became just the sixth LSU freshman with 30+ points in a game
Said ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas of Simmons:
He’s incredibly productive. They just don’t make guys like that very often that have that kind of size and skill level. He can go off the bounce with either hand. He passes with either hand. He’s a volume rebounder, and he can take a defensive rebound and go, and he’s unselfish. I think he can defend. I’ve seen him do it. When he wants to lock down and not let guys get past him, he does.
He’s not a great shooter, and that’s one thing that is a bit of a concern, but he does make his free throws, and I think he can improve upon that. I’m not suggesting that somehow he’s going to be Steph Curry, but what I’m saying is he can be a competent shooter where you’re going to have to go out and guard him, and if you have to go out and guard him, he can get by you.
For a guy that really didn’t shoot any jump shots, he only took three three-point shots and very few jump shots throughout the course of the year, he averaged just under 20 points per game and shot 55 percent. He got to the basket at will. And as a lefty, he went left 71 percent of the time and still nobody could stop him. He had one of those seasons that you just don’t see very often. We haven’t seen anybody put up those kind of numbers in decades. I was incredibly impressed.
While he’s got — he’s not perfect. He doesn’t shoot it the way you would hope he would, in every other area he’s the best in the draft.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 23, 2016