The chances that the Wizards luck into the No. 1 pick in the NBA’s draft lottery is 0.6%, which is basically next to impossible. The official answer will come Tuesday, but in case they were to be so fortunate to keep the pick it would be LSU’s Ben Simmons.
If the Wizards don’t jump up to the top three in the lottery, they’ll stay at 13th. Because their pick is top-9 protected, that would mean it’ll go to the Phoenix Suns who sent them Markieff Morris at the trade deadline. Morris essentially, 26, and a quality starting power forward essentially becomes their draft pick.
In the event the unthinkable were to happen, their decision will be made easy if they choose to keep the No. 1 pick though assets it could bring in a trade for help now and later could be intriguing.
A lot of doubt has been raised since LSU’s season ended without an NCAA Tournament berth and a 19-14 record, and the pitchforks have been out en masse to assassinate Simmons’ character.
According to several NBA scouts who saw Simmons and former LSU players still close to the program in conversations with CSNmidatlantic.com, most of that either isn’t true or overblown. How else can coach Johnny Jones' staff explain those results unless Simmons isn't painted as a problem child? What player his age wouldn’t need to be knocked down a few pegs for having a big head? He’s no cancer or bad teammate.
Simmons entered his freshman season out of Australia amid spectacular hype. He averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He’s the first player in SEC history, since statistics were kept starting in 1969, to be in the top five in each category.
With the NBA’s draft combine taking place in Chicago – Simmons didn’t attend – the chatter begins anew on who’ll be the top pick.
Duke’s Brandon Ingram, a 6-9 small forward, is the one who could unseat Simmons from the perch. If he does, it's because he's perceived as having the higher ceiling as a player and not the other noise. Simmons is 6-10 and projected to be a small/power forward.
Simmons' shooting range has to improve. He can get stronger. He can be less dependent on his left hand. He has to be more assertive. But who are these things not true about when most lottery prospects are teens? The latter about his assertiveness, maybe that wouldn’t have been questioned if Simmons actually had plays called for him in crunch time and got the experience? LSU didn’t always take advantage of him. In a 77-75 loss to Oklahoma, Simmons didn’t get a shot up in the last five minutes.
“You can criticize every player’s game at this point because they’re all young,” one league scout said. “But he can make other people better. His vision, his passing, that’s what separates him. It’s not just about what Ben Simmons can do for Ben Simmons.”
Simmons will be 20 by the time his rookie season begins. Regardless of who is the top pick, almost everyone agrees there’s not a player who is going to take any franchise from the outhouse to the penthouse single-handedly. It's going to take a few years for that potential to be realized.
Falling into Simmons as a backup to Markieff Morris, who is under contract with the Wizards through 2019, still would be a game-changer. The Wizards like him as the top pick in that hypothetical, far-fetched scenario in which their name is called at the NBA lottery next week. And despite all the recent misdirection about Simmons, so do most of the other 29 NBA teams.
And the pick would be so valuable even in this unspectacular draft field, it would give the Wizards a lot of other options such as trading down, swapping it for current proven players and future assets and getting them a jump on restructuring for the 2016-17 season and beyond.