By: Luke Brizzolara, Guest Contributor
It’s a rough year for the NBA Draft, with less talented and less numerous one-and-dones than usual, and four-year players who seem to have reached their ceiling in college. However, I do think that tomorrow night will be very entertaining, and tons of future D-League highlight-reelers will be drafted.
Besides the players, this draft has more potential than most for trades and picks that are really up in the air, up and down the whole draft. I’m actually finding myself looking forward to watching the draft on Wednesday
With less talent than usual, I am enthralled due to feeling invested this year in the players who are coming out, and their stories. With four-year players like Paige and Hield, as well as underdog stories like Ulis, I actually care about the players in the draft, which, similar to the postseason, lacked good content, but had so much excitement and was so intriguing to talk about.
Now, let’s begin discussing the presumptive top-2 picks: Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, which seem more like top-2 picks for being a clown at an elementary school party than being the new faces of the league.
At this point it seems certain that Simmons will go to Philadelphia. CBS Philadelphia reported Tuesday that the 76er’s front office told Simmons he would be picked #1. Ingram will most likely head to Los Angeles (Unless somehow either trade out, or the Lakers go with Dunn).
Even though I believe Ingram will do much better in the Association than Simmons, Simmons is the guy Philly will take with the first pick, even though everyone knows he will average a triple-single his whole career (Except for those 10+ moments each game you think, ‘what the heck man’). Philly loves his size, versatility, and more NBA ready game as well as their need for a 3 in their starting lineup, which makes him the better fit (I mean, I guess?).
However, Simmons won’t be a star nor will he be able to develop in Philly, which is a mess and lacks leadership, something Simmons has less of than good ol’ Sammie (Which by the way, he does lead the Philly PD in number of times confused with a predator). Simmons is too big to be a traditional 3, and his desire to shoot worse than Iman Shumpert while playing no defense means he won’t be able to excel in the NBA. Simmons shot just 31% outside of the paint playing in the SEC, and only 67% from the line, something Philadelphia doesn’t need, but then again, when has that ever stopped Philly from drafting anyone.
My final note on Simmons, is that I believe he has more potential than Ingram and could become a dominant 3, but he needs intensive development, which could potentially make him a star. He really needs another year of college, to put in effort, and to get out of Philadelphia; but unfortunately for him, the latter may happen too late to salvage a promising but ultimately empty career.
Now to Ingram, who along with Kris Dunn, is the only other player I can ever see succeeding in the NBA. Ingram is someone who I watched play a lot in college, and someone who I think can come in and be an all-star in 3 years.
The best place to begin with him is just simply, himself. He is almost 6’10” with a 7’3” wingspan, and a huge vertical. The Kinston native lacks in his athleticism, but he already has potential to be an elite defender, can shoot over any player guarding him on the perimeter, and can use his length to help him finish at the rim.
On the court, Ingram can shoot much better than Simmons (41% from 3), is a better defender, and can score 1-on-1 better than any other player in this draft. His shooting helped Duke spread the floor, opening up driving lanes for himself and Allen, and he can become an elite, KD-like scorer. The Lakers young core-( D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle) desperately needs a player like Ingram, his ability to adapt to the transition game on fast breaks could make Ingram a threat early.
Two things stand out to me when I think of Brandon Ingram: his upside and playmaking ability. He will get stronger and faster than he his now, and he will be a leader and blossom well on the Lakers, as long as Russell doesn’t snitch on him for skipping reps in the weight room. THe forward is also such a good playmaker, through his shooting, vision and height, and finishing with his length; all of which make him a perfect NBA “small ball” forward who can guard 1-4. With Luke Walton guiding the ship, I see the Lakers turning around their culture, and Ingram becoming the star.
Quick note on Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield…. These are the other two American players in the draft who I see staying in the league and making an impact. Dunn’s driving and superb passing, coupled with his better shooting, make him an absolute steal if he’s still available at 5 for Minnesota. Hield’s scoring and athleticism could make him a quality two-way player who would be a good fit for the Celtics or Pelicans.
NOW, FINALLY, to the best part of this draft: All of the drama and fun surrounding all these future D-League walking buckets.
I can’t speak on behalf of international players, but for all other American players, I see incomplete games that make them perfect fits for a no defense allowed D-League that resembles my summer rec-league more than professional sports. One-and-Dones like Jamal Murray and Malachi Richardson that can score and possess overconfident swagger make them fun to watch (I mean who wouldn’t tune in to see Murray taking a 30 foot fadeaway and doing a Nick Young-esque premature celebration of shooting down a fan with his legendary bow and arrow celebration).
Even the three and four year players this year seem to have fully reached their ceiling back in the day of being the big man on campus. From Brice Johnson, Denzel Valentine, Demetrius Jackson, and even further down, there’s no long tenured player (besides Hield) that jumps out as a star. Brice will have a tough time scoring in the league with no jumper and ball handling, Denzel is too undersized for a 3 and not a good enough scorer to be a contributing 2, and Jackson is just bland, an average player who is a skilled passer.
With that being said, I honestly think this draft will be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, with so many average yet exciting players to watch, that picks will come down to fit and pre-draft likeability rather than talent. And just like the postseason, there is so much here to talk about and to be enthralled in to watch it, even though there may be some sub-par content.