While it is a glamorous, exciting time to be LSU freshman Ben Simmons, the life of a top overall pick is not always all it's cracked up to be. Anthony Bennett, who was the Cleveland Cavaliers' No. 1 pick in 2013, has offered Simmons a cautionary tale about the pressures of being highly regarded coming out of college.
“It’s not just about being in the first round it’s about being in a team that fits you," Bennett said. “You don’t really have any say about where you go and it is pretty much all determined in the predraft, they just make the hard decisions a few hours before."
Players have no say where they go when they are drafted. It's all up to a team's decision-makers to determine who best fits their system and how well the player's talent will transition to the NBA. The Cavaliers made Bennett a surprise No. 1 pick ahead of Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter and Cody Zeller.
Expanding on his thoughts, Bennett touched on how quickly the tide can turn before providing Simmons with some optimism about being the first player taken.
“People often don’t look at the bigger picture and can be quick to write you off when things don’t start well immediately," Bennett said. “But being the No. 1 pick is a great opportunity and a huge accomplishment and if it is Simmons it’ll be a very proud moment for him and his family like it was for me.”
Bennett has become a punching bag three years into his career, in which he's averaged 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors.
ESPN's Chad Ford said during Bennett's rookie season in Cleveland, he looked "like the worst (No. 1 pick) in the past 20 years" (h/t the Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade).
The Cavaliers traded Bennett to Minnesota after his rookie season as part of the package for Kevin Love. The Timberwolves agreed to a buyout with Bennett last September, making him a free agent two years into his career before he signed with the Raptors.
Simmons is dominating college basketball just 15 games into his career, averaging a double-double with 20.6 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, and is a virtual lock to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft this summer if he decides to go pro.
There's little doubt Simmons is a player of immense talent, which only makes his early performance at LSU more encouraging—it looks like the spotlight won't get to him. But it's not easy to dominate in the NBA like it is at the collegiate level.
Bennett understands these things better than most people, so his words to Simmons could resonate loudly with him while the rest of the world marvels at the 19-year-old for what he's doing right now.