Simmons v. Ingram: Who's Number One?

By Chris Horton @HortonBBallSite

For months Ben Simmons has been widely considered the best prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft, but is he still number one?

Ingram. I’m a straightforward guy and that’s my top prospect – Brandon Ingram. Now that we got that out of the way, I’ll try to keep my explanation as short as a Ben Simmons jumper. Simmons is undeniably terrific. Ingram, however, is my number one for two reasons: superior shooting and the proven ability to produce in a pro-style offense.

Shooting

Ben Simmons attempted a total of three treys this year at LSU – clearly not the mark of a great shooter. Simmons shoots threes the way I eat olives. Try one every now and then just to say, “naah, not for me.” Even inside the arc, Simmons struggles unless he is going hard to the rim (usually after an in-and-out hesitation dribble) or attacking from the low post.

Simmons Air Ball

Brandon Ingram, on the other hand, isn’t shy letting it fly from the perimeter. In his one season at Duke, Ingram’s biggest improvement came as he learned how to be shot-ready at all times. In November, Ingram was consistently unprepared to get his shot off when making catches around the arc. Ingram was able to correct his shot preparation going into December and for the rest of the season showed the ability to use both the hop and one-two footwork to get off shots quickly and shoot at a high percentage (41% from three-point territory).

Ingram PNR Catch & Shoot

Ingram Catch & Shoot After Rebound

Pro Offense Effectiveness

Let’s jump right into a clip.

Sagging Off Simmons

I use this clip not to take another cheap shot at Simmons shooting struggles, but rather to show the way he is defended. As Simmons stands just above the elbow, his defender is already on the block in a position to help against an LSU guard driving to the basket. Next, as Simmons gathers the ball near half court, his defender comfortably sets up shop at the free-throw line. In a modern NBA predicated on space, I don’t know where Simmons can be most effective. If the ball isn’t in his hands, his defender can help away from him and clog the lane. Maybe the solution is playing Simmons at power forward so he’s closer to the basket. Admittedly that may work on the offensive end, especially if Simmons can assume the role of a Draymond Green-esque screener turned facilitator. Still, more and more NBA offenses are calling on their four-men to stretch defenses.

If this sounds like a bit of guesswork as it relates to Ben Simmons, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, the way Simmons was used at LSU leaves many questions as to the best way to use him at the next level. Now juxtapose this with Coach Krzyzewski’s use of Brandon Ingram at Duke. More than ever, Coach K used an NBA style offense with a heavy dose of pick and rolls to suit his NBA caliber talent. (Seems simple but K’s ability to adjust is part of his brilliance and cannot be overstated.) Ingram shines in his NBA audition tape as both a pick and roll ball handler and screener.

Ingram PNR Assist For Dunk

Ingram PNR Assist For Three

Ingram PNR Jumper

Ingram PNR Attack

When Duke wasn’t running pick and rolls, they initiated their offense with horns sets and pinch post action commonly used throughout the NBA. In such scenarios, Ingram is stationed at the elbow and given the green light to attack.

Ingram Elbow Iso

When choosing between Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram there isn’t a bad choice to be made. I’ve stated my case for picking Ingram first, but the most important factor in this decision might be the vision the prospective franchise has for using each player. Whereas it is easy to see how you could plug Brandon Ingram into some of the 1-3, 3-1 pick and rolls, and elbow post ups that you’d commonly see for a KD or Melo, Simmons is a bit harder to place. Simmons has been compared to Magic, LeBron, and a super version of Draymond Green. Based on his incredible passing ability and the way people will presumably defend him, for me, Simmons is a larger Rajon Rondo. Yes, he’s 6’10’’ and no, he doesn’t yet handle the ball like a point guard. Nevertheless, a move like this might just be the future of the NBA. Look no further than Giannis Antetokounmpo who, standing at 6’11’’, has taken the reins as the Bucks point guard and is wrecking havoc on the league.

In June, one lottery penny pinching franchise will have this decision. Do you pick the guy that could be like Kevin Durant or do you pick a guy that could be like something we’ve never seen before?

Special thanks to Tobias Go-to-Guys YouTube Channel for the great clips!

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