Gonzo: Not much debate, Sixers should take Ben Simmons


So much for the big Ben Simmons vs. Brandon Ingram debate. If it ever materialized, it didn’t last very long, and it certainly wasn’t the heated screamfest we tend to foster in Philly.
Shortly after the Sixers landed the No. 1 overall pick, there was a report they were leaning heavily toward taking Simmons. Since then, it’s felt like more of an inevitability than a question — even though Simmons didn’t work out for the Sixers and even though some people freaked out about it when they shouldn’t have.
For his part, Bryan Colangelo has remained cagey on the subject. He’s repeatedly said he won’t reveal the Sixers' plan until the commissioner walks to the podium Thursday evening and informs everyone who they’re taking with the first overall pick. (Actually, Woj will have it before that. But you get the idea.) Last week, while Ingram was in town, Colangelo was asked by the media if it’s still possible Ingram will be the selection. Colangelo replied their thinking on the subject “changes all the time.”
Not buying it. Top Sixers executives had dinner with Simmons and his agent last week in Cleveland prior to Game 6 of the NBA Finals. It supposedly went well. All indications are Simmons will be the pick. And he should be. 
There was a time after the draft when my opinion on the pick oscillated regularly between Simmons and Ingram. I like them both quite a bit. Ingram is going to be a really good player. He’s long and he can shoot. He’s going to give defenders massive matchup problems on the wing. From a fit perspective, he would make a lot of sense for the Sixers. If that’s the way they go, if they suddenly surprise everyone and take Ingram, it would be fine. You could certainly make a case for him. But the more I looked at it, and the more I read what smart people wrote about Simmons’ upside, the more I became convinced that he should and will be the choice. 
As our buddy Derek Bodner pointed out, the fit thing isn’t a big deal. The roster the Sixers have as you read this won’t be the roster they have after the draft, and it’s likely to look far more different by the time the offseason funnels into the regular season. They have to unclog that frontcourt. It’s inevitable. When they do, you’d imagine they’ll try to put pieces around Simmons (and Joel Embiid and — crosses fingers and toes — Dario Saric) that make sense. But, again, it’s not about fit. It’s about potential and upside and taking the best player, and despite his obvious outside shooting deficiencies, I think that’s Simmons.
Yes, the Sixers need outside shooting. (Quick math tells you that three points are more than two points; I went to college.) But Simmons' primary skill — his fantastic court vision and passing — should help on that front, even if he isn’t the one scoring. Ball movement is every bit as important in the NBA as long-range shooting. Move the ball, find the open man, get open looks, that’s a recipe for a mighty tasty offense. (That’s part of the reason why I’d rather see them offload Jahlil Okafor instead of Nerlens Noel; Okafor is a ball movement killer.) Simmons is an excellent passer in the half court, and he’s even better at grabbing a rebound and starting a break in transition. When he drives, he’s good at finding teammates just as defenders start sliding in his direction. Yeah, he needs to work on his shot — but in the interim, the things he can do right now, right away, are awfully attractive.
There’s more to like than just the passing. He’s a superb rebounder. He’s got a good handle. On defense, he’s got quick hands and he’s fast enough to stay with smaller players. He’s also big enough to confound guys who want to pick on someone their own size. In a league that increasingly wants to switch everything on defense, Simmons should fit in nicely. At 6-10, 240 pounds, he already has an NBA-ready body — and he won’t turn 20 until July. Those are really valuable skills and traits.
This thing feels fully baked. If anyone is still debating the topic, it’s an awfully hushed conversation. Colangelo can try to keep some mystery to it if he likes, but all signs point to Simmons being the guy. And he should be.

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