|Lakers currently have the best chance to have the 1st pick in the draft (USATSI)|
Ben Simmons will likely be the first pick in the draft this June; he leads freshmen in most statistical categories and is top 5 in the entire SEC in points, rebounds and assists per game. But as the event draws closer, don’t be surprised if Brandon Ingram’s name gets floated as a potential 1st selection. While Simmons is a multi-talented player, Ingram is a more polished offensive threat. What’s more, his game more closely resembles current NBA forwards than Simmons’ game does (an announcer actually floated the idea of putting the 6’ 10 Simmons at the SG position).
The word “potential” gets brandied about during the NBA draft process. But upside has a way of making some prospects more attractive—the desperation that bad teams feel at the top of the draft could be likened to Last Call at a bar in this respect. It is easy, from the comfort of one’s home, to think that if a team is bad enough to be at the top of the draft that they should take a swing at the player that could change their franchise.
What people fail to take into account is that there are real people at the helm of these organizations. While Simmons may be the lever that turns a slumping NBA organization around, his lack of a jumper (or any real consistent way to score) could frighten people. Moreover, there are no easy comparisons to successful players in the league. Jack-of-all-trades players like Simmons can turn out to be masters of none…like fellow LSU player Anthony Randolph.
While some may look at taking the more known quality as “playing it safe” there are some things to keep in mind. One, “upside” is really just a hypothetical. It doesn’t take into account the drive of a player to appreciably improve (who would’ve picked Steph Curry to have gotten this much better?). Upside also assumes that a player will one day be capable of performing a skill he has yet to display with any sort of consistency—in short, upside icould be nothing more than agreed upon fallacy. Secondly, with the logos, legacies, and history of these franchises, it is easy to forget that humans are the ones making these decisions. People with mortgages and families decide who a team will select in the draft. Things like comfort and fear of public ridicule are real considerations. It could come down to what a GM would be comfortable with missing out on.
In the end, it is likely Simmons and Ingram will both have productive careers. There are still a number of teams which might appear at the top of the draft; which means that all of them will have different needs to fit. So before you overreact at your favorite team’s draft decision, know that they are taking plenty into account...like their own futures.