If someone gave you a choice between a pot of gold pieces or a pile of gold pieces, which would you choose? You can’t really go wrong with either, as you’ll ultimately end up with gold in your pockets. However, there are some fundamental differences between the two choices.
The pot of gold pieces seems like an easier choice because you can just take it and run, there’s no worrying about how to transport your gold, as the pot takes care of that for you.
On the other hand, the pile of gold pieces is an interesting choice because there's a chance it contains a good deal more pieces than the pot, but only time will tell, as you'll have to sit and count each piece to find out.
So what does this question have to do with basketball? Well, the Philadelphia 76ers have a very similar and tough decision coming up in a few weeks, a decision that could make or break the success of “the process.”
The big question for the Sixers is this: who should they draft, Brandon Ingram, the lengthy freak from Duke and my pot of gold pieces, or Ben Simmons, the Australian Lebron and my pile of gold pieces?
The Philadelphia 76ers are the worst team in the NBA and they have been for the past few years. Of the five worst seasons in their franchise’s history, 2014, 2015, and 2016 take three of the top five spots.
Now I’m not a mathematical genius, as I’ve said before, but by golly that is absolutely garbage, especially if you've been a fan of the Sixers in the 2010s.
This terrible stretch of consecutive seasons would be even more embarrassing if not for the plan that Sam Hinkie, the former General Manager of the Sixers, had come up with. Julius Erving, the 76ers legend, gave the NBA world some insight into that plan, also known as “the process,” back in 2012 when he appeared on Sirius XM Radio.
“When they acquired the team in 2012, I think the talk was about seven years,” Erving said. “Seven years. So, I think it’s still on that same timeline.”
When asked if “seven years” meant just making the playoffs, Erving replied, “No, to be good. To be good, to be formidable, to be a contender. So that's probably ’18-19.”
Yeah, the past few years have been very bad for Philly fans but at least there was a method to the madness, or badness in this case. If they had been this terrible with no end in sight, I think Commissioner Adam Silver would have had to step in somehow, to save Sixer fans from dying from embarrassment.
Hinkie’s process was all about building through the draft. Basically, he would trade away Philly’s assets for future draft picks, resulting in very young but also very bad teams. His hope was for those teams to place last or close to last in order to secure high draft picks to use on good, young talent.
Hinkie greatly succeeded in this plan, as the Sixers were able to draft at the third spot two years in a row (2014 and 2015) and now the top spot in this year’s 2016 draft.
The NBA has changed a ton in the past decade. Gone are the centers and power forwards of days passed, the gigantic paint-clogging humans that teams so desperately coveted in drafts and free agency. There are still players that fit that mold in the league today but smaller, more versatile players are now at the top of every GM’s wish list. Draymond Green is that type of player.
Green can spread the floor, play multiple positions, and, most importantly, guard multiple positions, even though he’s only 6’7” with shoes on. Players like Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook are now the model for the quintessential NBA guard and the big men of the 80’s and 90’s would be too slow if switched onto such quick and talented players like Curry and Westbrook.
Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons are arguably the best players in this draft because they possess those Green-like qualities. They’re both very young — 19 years old — and need to work out a few kinks in their games but as of right now, their ceilings are the highest among all draftees.
Brandon Ingram Strengths
Between these two young talents, I think Ingram is more NBA ready because of his ability to shoot the basketball. You don’t necessarily have to be a knockdown shooter to succeed in the current NBA but being at least a threat to shoot will make you incredibly valuable to any team.
Ingram’s ability to shoot not only helps him to score but also his teammates. As threat from the outside, defenses have to play Ingram all the way out to the three point line, spacing the floor and opening driving lanes for his teammates. When his teammates drive, the defense has to make a quick decision: crash the paint and force a kick out to Ingram, who can shoot, or stay on Ingram and hope his teammate miss the layup. Draymond Green creates this problem a lot for the Golden State Warriors.
The rest of Ingram’s offensive game is also off the charts. He’s got a great handle and good vision when passing, making him a true triple threat. The rest of his arsenal includes post fadeaways and the ability to be both a pick and roll ball handler and a pick and pop player, thanks to his shooting touch off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations. He can also school you with isolation step-backs and spinning jumpers so defenses better bring their “A” game.
So Ingram’s got a great offensive game, so do a lot of the players in the draft. But can he play defense?
Well, with a 6’9” frame coupled with a 7’3” wingspan, you’d better be a good defender!
To answer that question, yes, Ingram is a very good defender. He’s got the height and reach to annoy jumpers and layups and a great leaping ability to sky for rebounds. His feet aren’t the quickest but he can stay in front of most players. When he bulks up from his current 195 lbs, he’ll be a solid defensive player to call onto the court in crunch time.
Brandon Ingram Weaknesses
Oh, you thought Ingram was the perfect basketball specimen, huh? No weaknesses? Well, sorry to disappoint, but even Lebron has weaknesses — the man has lost the ability to shoot — but that’s an article for another day.
Standing at 6’9” and with room to grow, Ingram is a lanky freak. But if he doesn’t increase his weight and get stronger, he won’t be able to reach his full potential.
Ingram weighs in at 195 lbs. and stands on two scrawny legs. At Duke, he was pushed around inside the paint a lot, especially when he tried to box out bigger guys. He needs to pack on the muscle so that he can fight for rebounds and finish through contact at the rim.
His lack of defensive focus was also a big no-no when he was a Blue Devil. He was lackadaisical at times and allowed his man to slip back door or get open for an easy jumper too many times. NBA coaches will preach intensity and effort on defense and if he listens, he can become a great two way player.
Ben Simmons Strengths
Now we’ve come to the kid who analysts predicted months ago would be the number one pick in the draft. Leading a top ten recruiting class, many expected Simmon’s LSU Tigers to be a top five seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, they failed to make the college playoff and the team also declined a request to play in the NIT, effectively ending Simmons’ college career, as he officially declared for the NBA Draft 9 days after his final game.
The thing that separates Simmons from Ingram is exactly what separates men from boys: the body department. Also 19 and still growing, Simmons’ current 6’10” 240 lbs paired with his speed and quickness makes him very similar to Blake Griffin, who was 6’10” 248 lbs back at the 2009 NBA Combine. That big body will be very important when Simmons is trying to score inside among the trees.
Simmons also possesses great leaping ability and quick reactions on both the defensive and offensive ends of the court. His ambidextrous passing and inside shooting skills — hooks, layups, floaters — set him apart from the other draftees. His exceptional court vision will be a big help when NBA defenses switch and get out of their rotations, opening up passing lanes for him to squeeze passes through.
One trait that teams are looking for in a 2016 NBA player are their skills in transition.
Simmons is very speedy in transition, like Lebron James, and likes to sling it to shooters out of the post like James. Unfortunately, Simmons isn’t as athletic nor does he possess the high basketball IQ as an 18 year old Lebron James but hey, not many players were that good in high school like the King.
Simmons isn’t an amazing defender but he’s got quick hands and quick feet, something GMs will drool over. In today’s world, you need to be able to switch onto smaller guys and stay in front of them while also possessing the skills to defend big men with a big body. Simmons doesn’t do anything exceptional on defense but he can hold his own, as long he puts in the effort.
Ben Simmons Weaknesses
As I said before, the NBA landscape has changed dramatically. Versatile players are now like the new toy that every kid wishes for on Christmas. Can you imagine children asking Santa for a Draymond Green at Christmas?
Simmons has one huge flaw in his game that makes him a lot less versatile: he doesn’t have a jump shot.
Simmons only attempted 3 three pointers his entire college career, connecting on only one, and passed up multiple open jumpers by either passing or dribbling closer to the basket. Defenses have noticed this and have begun to play “2014 Finals Lebron” defense on him, sitting in the paint and daring him to shoot from 15-20 feet out.
Not only can his inability to shoot effect his scoring but it can and will effect the scoring of his team. Draymond Green spaces the floor for Golden State well, which helps the Warriors get open driving lanes to either score layups or to kick out to players like Klay Thompson and even Green himself. Unfortunately, Simmons is the complete opposite. He will need to put in countless hours during this offseason and future offseasons to hone his shooting touch.
Besides his nonexistent jumpshot, Simmons has a couple other problems. He’s got short arms for a 6’10” guy (7’0”) which will kill him when reaching for rebounds and when he’s shooting over people in the paint. He’s also got limited post moves, something he’ll need to fix if wants to be an even bigger threat down low.
Similar to Ingram, Simmons also gets lazy on defense and takes plays off, especially in crunch time when taking a play off can make or break a game. These two players are both young, so they’ll have time to practice and change their habits, but they need to change these habits quickly before they stick around for good.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a gaping hole at small forward, something that both Ingram and Simmons would be able to fill immediately. Ingram is a natural SF while Simmons could be considered a SF/PF hybrid.
Since the Sixers have 7 big guys already on their roster, choosing Brandon Ingram at number one to fill the SF slot would be ideal. The Sixers also have Dario Saric, a 6'10" PF from Croatia, coming from overseas possibly this year or next year so they'll have even more centers and power forwards, making Ingram a good pick at number one.
At the same time, drafting Ben Simmons to play SF is also a great choice because when he plays at that position, he'll be bigger than most small forwards in the league so he'll have an advantage there. He can also easily switch to PF whenever he needs to because of his great size and strength.
With all that being said, if the Sixers did draft Simmons at number one, I think they should trade one of their existing big men because Simmons could definitely start at PF when Philly plays small. Of Philly's 7 big men, 5 of them are 23 years old or younger, which means they have young, talented big guys that they could easily shop to try and get some good guards, since they also struggle at that position.
Jahlil Okafor, the Sixers draft pick last year, didn’t live up to the hype that was thrust upon him as a top draft choice and he could be out the door. Nerlens Noel, a 7 footer from Kentucky, has been involved in recent trade talks and I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded one of them before the draft.
If Philly decides to go with Ingram, I don’t think they’ll need to trade anybody because they’ll have gotten their small forward that will fit nicely with the multiple skilled big men already on their roster. Ingram is a perfect 2016 small forward and any team will be lucky to draft him.
The differences between Ingram and Simmons are pretty obvious when you lay them out. One is an athletic freak who can’t shoot while the other is a gifted basketball player who is just a normal, tall human. Both are eventually going to be really good but you have to look at these two players in terms of growth and what type of players they will be in 5-10 years.
I think that Ben Simmons will ultimately have the better career because his flaws can be manipulated and strengthened during offseason workouts and he is more athletic and quick on the court than Ingram.
Ingram’s main weakness, his lack of strength, can obviously be fixed but it’s Simmons’ natural body type and athletic ability that makes me think he’ll be the better NBA player.
Right now and for the first couple years, Ingram may be the better player since he fits the mold of a versatile and lanky player. However, I think that when Simmons develops a decent jumper, he’ll become even more of a triple threat than Ingram and will see more success in the league.
Ingram is my pot of gold because he's a valuable player that already has a mold about him. We know what his skills are on the basketball court and we know what we are getting when he draft a guy like Ingram.
Simmons is my pile of gold because we don't really know exactly what we're getting with him. He may be worth 5 less pieces than Ingram or 20 more! Only time will tell before we know how valuable Simmons is as a basketball player.
If I were the 76ers, I would draft Ben Simmons because of his incredibly high ceiling. He’s a freak with some flaws in the fundamental department but those flaws are easily fixable. Brandon Ingram is a highly skilled basketball player but Simmons has all the skills that you can’t teach: instinct, vision, and athleticism. These skills, I think, will be what sets Simmons apart from Ingram and Simmons apart from all the other players in the league in 10-15 years.