Some star athletes might be worried about taking public stances that won’t sit well with a segment of the population and align with a carefully crafted individual brand.
Ben Simmons has made it clear he’s not concerned about that at the moment.
After retweeting several tweets that frankly criticized President Donald Trump, the Sixers’ point guard shared the following message early Tuesday morning:
This is not what a leader looks like. His actions and cold words are cowardly. Do not allow these messages of hate and divide draw your attention away from the REAL goal of UNITY and EQUALITY which is achieved through LOVE and COMPASSION. I love y’all, stay safe ☮️
In 2017, Simmons had called Trump "an idiot" after he'd referred to NFL players who protested by kneeling on the field during the national anthem as "sons of bitches."
Monday night, members of the police and National Guard had cleared a crowd of protestors in Washington, D.C., by “firing rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bang grenades into the crowd,” according to NBC News, so that Trump could pose for photos with a bible outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
A 46-year-old black man, Floyd was killed last week in police custody. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes and has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers on the scene, Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, were fired but have not been charged.
The NCAA Tournament being cancelled will likely affect several draft prospects. Oregon’s Payton Pritchard seems to be one of them. The senior guard led the Ducks to a 24-7 record and the team won the Pac-12 regular season title with a 13-5 mark. Pritchard leading a strong tourney run could’ve helped his draft stock.
As it stands, Pritchard’s resume is still pretty darn impressive. He was a consensus All-American in 2019-20 and won Pac-12 Player of the Year. He averaged 20.5. points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his final collegiate season.
Pritchard has a reputation as a tireless worker and dogged competitor. As mentioned, he was the true leader of an Oregon team that had a chance to do serious damage in the NCAA Tournament. He excelled in a much larger scoring role his senior season.
He seems to have the ball on a string with advanced handling skills. His father told a reporter that his son practices dribbling “until his hands bleed.” While he’s not the most explosive guard, his ability to change speeds and understanding of when to do so is a huge asset.
He also has good vision and awareness. Despite a high usage rate, Pritchard’s turnover numbers didn’t grow exponentially. He averaged 4.6 assists and two turnovers a game during his time in Eugene.
Outside of a down season in 2018-19, Pritchard has proven to be an elite shooter. He’s fearless with unlimited range. This play against Washington in overtime got a much deserved “ONIONS!” call from Bill Raftery.
That game was sort of a microcosm of Pritchard. Oregon struggled against Washington’s zone for much of the game. Pritchard patiently picked his spots but took over at times when his team needed him to.
Despite being just 6-foot-2, Pritchard is solidly built and did flash potential as an off-ball defender with 1.5 steals a game. He’s also a solid rebounder for his height, which helps him be able to push the pace.
The height will likely be an issue at the next level. He also doesn’t have long arms or the lateral quickness it would seem to take to defend NBA guards. It’s hard to gauge against the zone, but he may also struggle to battle through screens.
He’s not particularly athletic or explosive. Though his ball handling skills are excellent, he does struggle to turn the corner on quicker defenders. The lack of explosion also led to him struggling to finish against length at the rim.
While he has NBA skills, he does not possess a strong physical NBA profile.
As a player that can play with and back up Ben Simmons, Pritchard could be a decent fit. Pritchard's ability as a shooter and advanced ball handling would mesh well with Simmons' elite ability as a screener and roller. Simmons’ size and defensive prowess could help cover Pritchard’s deficiencies.
While he took on a scoring role this season, Pritchard isn’t the type of player to force things. As a point guard that likes to push the ball up the floor, he could fit in well with the Sixers’ pace and space style.
Because of his lack of height and athleticism, he will likely be around for the Sixers in the middle of the second round. He seems worth a flyer there because of his steady improvement and work ethic. He's not the type of player you bet against despite his physical limitations.