Rich Paul has grown into one of basketball's most high-profile agents thanks in large part to his association with LeBron James. Now, Paul will reportedly be representing the player whose varied skill set has reminded some of the four-time MVP.
LSU forward Ben Simmons announced his decision to join Paul through UNINTERRUPTED:
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported March 14 that Simmons planned to sign with Paul once he declared for the 2016 NBA draft. Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game as a freshman but was unable to lead the Tigers to an NCAA tournament berth. His collegiate career ended in embarrassing fashion, as LSU put up just 38 points in a conference semifinals loss to Texas A&M.
Simmons has been the consensus favorite to go No. 1 overall since before he arrived in Baton Rouge. Listed at 6'10" and 240 pounds, Simmons brings a truly unique combination of size, athleticism and basketball IQ. His passing ability, ball-handling skills and smarts allow him to act as a point forward on the floor; his assist totals probably would have been one or two notches higher per game with better teammates.
"His ability to play positionless basketball and like a positionless basketball player are all attributes that I would imagine any team would love to have," former Charlotte Hornets general manager Rod Higgins told Vice Sports' Mike Vorkunov.
There are, admittedly, some red flags. Simmons cannot shoot a lick. His release is a bit awkward and hitchy. He attempted only three shots from three-point range all season and shot 67 percent from the free-throw line. Being positionless is possible in college basketball without a three-point shot. It's a lot harder in the NBA, particularly as the three becomes an integral part of even the most retro offenses.
There may be some concern about Simmons' maturity depending on who is doing the speaking. Those who pound the table in favor of the student-athlete will wonder how Simmons performed so poorly in school that he wasn't eligible for the Wooden Award, per Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. They may also frown upon Simmons' rather laissez-faire attitude toward the whole situation.
Some have even attempted to make a case for Duke's Brandon Ingram over Simmons.
This, for the most part, is nonsense. Ingram is a phenomenal young player. He's going to be an excellent consolation prize for some team at No. 2. But Simmons is the only player in this class with a chance to be transcendent. His absolute floor as a player is Lamar Odom without the litany of off-court issues. Simmons is going to be the first player taken regardless of who winds up with the No. 1 pick, and we've known this for some time.
In fact, none of this is especially new news. It's been one of basketball's worst-kept secrets that Simmons was signing with Klutch after declaring for the draft. As Wojnarowski pointed out, Simmons' sister is already working for the company.
Now, Simmons will join a client list that includes James, Eric Bledsoe, Tristan Thompson and John Wall. He would be the third No. 1 overall pick represented by Paul (James and Wall) but the first to be so when selected.