LSU Tigers star Ben Simmons has long been heralded as the top prospect in college basketball, and he will forgo the remainder of his collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2016 NBA draft, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman.
"I'm making it official," Simmons told Goodman on March 21
Simmons has withdrawn from LSU and will move to Phoenix until the draft, per Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.
On Wednesday, Simmons announced via Bleacher Report's Uninterrupted that he's decided on an agent:
.@BenSimmons25 announces on UNINTERRUPTED that he has signed with Klutch Sports Group. https://t.co/aKPsC22vAF2016-3-23 19:23:41
Based on the 2015-16 season that he put together, there's hardly any reason to wonder why Simmons would declare following a single year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
En route to earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors, the 19-year-old averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals per game as he solidified his place as the nation's most complete prospect.
To that point, Simmons finished the season with six games of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists—three more than the next-closest player, per Sports-Reference.com.
|Freshmen to Average 15 PTS, 10 REB Since 2000|
|Eddie Griffin||2000-01||Seton Hall|
|Paul Millsap||2003-04||Louisiana Tech|
|Michael Beasley||2007-08||Kansas State|
|Jared Sullinger||2010-11||Ohio State|
Not only were Simmons' numbers eye-popping when compared to his peers during the season, but they proved to be historically significant.
A scan of Sports-Reference.com's statistical database shows Simmons became the first player since 1994-95 to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals during the regular season.
"His playmaking ability is similar to Magic Johnson's," an NBA scout told Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. "He's a franchise guy; he's going to be special. Whoever gets him is going to be very happy. There won't be any regret on that pick."
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However, Simmons is hardly a perfect prospect.
While his ability to gash opponents in transition was evident all year long, Simmons was hesitant to hoist jumpers inside or outside the arc.
According to Hoop-Math.com, during the regular season, Simmons shot 32.9 percent on two-point jumpers, a figure that paled in comparison to his conversion rate of 75.2 percent at the rim. The Australian native also attempted a grand total of three shots from three-point range—including one make—during the regular season.
But as one scout told Wasserman, turning down open jumpers in favor of easier looks below the free-throw line was merely a show of Simmons' playing to his strengths.
"Not concerned about his jumper at all," the scout said. "I've seen him in practice, and it's not great, but not broken at all. Not looking to shoot outside is a testament to how dominant he is and taking advantage of his size and athleticism."
That said, using his size and athleticism to outmuscle opposing defenders won't always be possible in the NBA. Matched up against stronger, savvier opponents, Simmons will need to diversify his portfolio and obtain the threat of a free-throw-line jumper. Otherwise, defenders will be content to go under screens and pack the paint as they dare him to jack up dreaded mid-range attempts.
There's also the matter of Simmons' maturing once he's drafted and immediately saddled with the burden of being a franchise centerpiece.
As Jonathan Givony wrote for The Vertical, the perception regarding Simmons' ability to play such a role has been questioned by those who have observed his growth—or lack thereof—over the past few years:
Australian players and coaches who have been around him don't speak about him in flattering terms, calling him "the Yank" to highlight how different he is compared with most of the players from that country, and perhaps highlight how much moving to the United States at a young age and immersing himself in the AAU world has shaped him.
Those who know him best say he needs things to revolve around him on and off the court and that he's often been close-minded to coaching or instruction.
Simmons will be thrust into the spotlight from the moment he's drafted, and the way he responds to intense scrutiny will be dissected on a microscopic level.
But if he can prove capable of shouldering responsibilities while fine-tuning his game, the Australian phenom could ultimately make good on his tremendous potential.