|Simmons Has faced his share of criticism over the past year (Getty Images)|
While reading the stellar Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress (a must read for tournament time and NBA draft junkies such as myself) I came across an article detailing a myriad of reasons why Ben Simmons could/should belosing his spot as the inevitable first pick in this June’s NBA draft. Specifically, Givony outlined four reasons that a change at the top of the draft was warranted; his competitiveness, hollow box scores, poor defense, and character issues all stemmed back to a perceived general apathetic approach to the game. Givony, as usual, seemed to hit the nail on the head. I watched several LSU games and Simmons (at times) appeared to be stoically resigned to the LSU casually piled up over the course of their oddly forgettable season. What I believe Givony missed was the real-life context that may have been the driving factor for the perceived indifference Simmons displayed.
Ben Simmons was born July 20th, 1996 less than a month after Kobe Bryant was selected 13th by the Charlotte Hornets. The NBA officially adopted what has been deemed the “One and Done” rule as a part of the 2005 collective bargaining agreement. So for the duration of Simmons’ life, he has seen Kobe Bryant and LeBron James dominating the NBA. There was no question as to whether a player straight out of high school could play at an elite level. So perhaps he attacked the prospect of one year of college basketball much in the same way that many attacked their first jobs; as a necessary evil that was a means to an end. With the exception that that job was required…and unpaid. Add that to the fact that the team he selected based on a familial relationship was devoid of sufficient talent, and this season simply petered out to a whimpering conclusion.
This summer, Simmons will finally get an opportunity to realize his dream of being drafted. This arbitrary rule of forcing players to wait until a year after their graduation is now not only exploiting a small number of players, but is now affecting their assessments. The NBA was concerned that players out of high school weren’t ready to play in the Association. Now, the rule may be affecting competitive balance; forcing teams at the top of the draft to assess a player’s meaningless season—a practice that could lead teams that need talent most to bypass a player that could sorely help them and their fan base.
Watching the scrutiny that Simmons has been under for a season, including the leaking of his academic performance, has only highlighted the need to change the NBA rule. The players that are talented enough shouldn’t be denied a right to earn what the market bears. And as more of this generation of basketball player who grew up watching Kobe (a player currently on an 82-game goodbye tour because of his celebrated greatness) have to endure a year of playing without pay, we will continue to see college basketball seasons approached with the anticipation of a prostate exam.