Observations: Ben Simmons is the easy choice at No. 1 over Brandon Ingram
Duke's Brandon Ingram will be a good NBA player, but Simmons is clearly ahead
Ben Simmons is an easy choice for the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The element of debate is one to be expected when you're talking about putting the future of an NBA franchise in the hands of one player, but when you really break things down, there's no way that Duke's Brandon Ingram should be selected ahead of Simmons in next week's NBA Draft.
The NBA has evolved into a shot making league over the past few years and Ingram's ability to stretch the defense is undeniable. The 6-foot-9 forward is a prototypical stretch four-man, although his slender frame (190 pounds) may make it difficult for him to initially guard NBA power forwards.
In simple terms, Ingram is terrific.
But he's not the type of transcendent talent that Simmons is.
No player in college basketball was as scrutinized as the 6-11 import from Australia was last season and the criticism was ludicrous at times considering the ancillary pieces that he played with at LSU.
I pointed out last summer that even with Simmons in tow, the Tigers were being vastly overrated entering last season because they were going to have to deal with the losses of two players -- Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey -- who were both selected among the top 33 picks of last June's NBA Draft.
Ingram had Grayson Allen and Matt Jones, two players who shot better than 40.0 percent from 3-point range to create spacing for his game. He also had Luke Kennard, a crafty lefty scorer, who's a better shooter than his 3-point field-goal percentage (32.0) indicated.
Simmons' supporting cast wasn't even close.
Only one player on LSU's roster -- Keith Hornsby -- shot better than 40.0 percent from 3-point range last season and he only played 20 games due to multiple injuries. The Tigers' two other primary offensive threats -- Antonio Blakeney and Tim Quarterman -- were both more breakdown type guys who took opponents off the dribble rather than shooters who could adequately space for the floor and create isolation opportunities for Simmons.
And with all this said, Simmons still averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists while shooting 56.0 percent.
Keep this mind as well: if you switched Simmons and Ingram from their respective teams and Simmons played on Duke, those numbers probably would increase because he'd be playing with better shooters and better all-around players.
The narrative surrounding Simmons' inability to get LSU into the NCAA Tournament is somewhat valid, but as I pointed out above, the Tigers lost two players who were drafted and a key player in Hornsby, who was critical to the Tigers' offensive spacing.
LSU's program isn't similar to Kentucky where it can lose multiple NBA players and not take somewhat of a step back the next year, even if it does add a talent like Simmons.
And speaking of the Wildcats, if LSU found a way to win its regular season finale against Kentucky at Rupp Arena then the Tigers would have tied John Calipari's squad for the SEC regular season title.
Ingram is a terrific player and will be a tremendous pro.
Simmons is a transcendent talent and one that did everything listed above with a solid, but far from elite supporting cast.
Returning players always mean more than incoming players in college basketball and the debate between Ingram and Simmons reiterates that very point.
But as far as who should be the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft?
That's an easy decision to make, regardless of which team is on the board.
Washington's Chriss is top 'riser' in NBA Draft
A year ago at this time, Marquese Chriss was considered to be a somewhat under-the-radar freshman heading into the Pac-12.
Now, sources are telling CBS Sports that he's likely to be selected anywhere from third to ninth in next week's NBA Draft --- seriously!
"He has a chance to be the best NBA big man that we've had at Washington," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said this week of the 6-9, 225 pound Chriss. "I'm not comparing him to Len Bias, but he does certain things on the court that remind of Len Bias. He has that type of ability."
A freak athlete, Chriss had moments of brilliance as a freshman at Washington and averaged 23.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in two Postseason NIT games.
Several NBA executives told CBS Sports that part of what is getting people excited about Chriss is his long-term potential.
"He's still just learning how to play," one executive said. "But two, three, four years down the road? Look out."
AAC drops ball by only scheduling UC and Memphis once
This league had a bit of a breakthrough last season when it had four teams reach the NCAA Tournament after back-to-back Selection Sundays where it had one team left out of the field of 68 that should have been invited (SMU in 2014, Temple in 2015).
But the American Conference did itself a massive disservice when it released its conference schedule pairings for next season and only had Cincinnati slated to play Memphis once.
The Bearcats are the league's co-favorites entering next season along with UConn and while Memphis may not look quite as good on paper as it has over the past few years, there's still many reasons why the Tigers should play Cincinnati twice next season.
1. Memphis has the best player in the conference in big man Dedric Lawson, who averaged 15.8 points and 9.7 rebounds last season as a freshman and will likely be the American's Preseason Player of the Year.
2. The Tigers are now being coached by a guy who's won a national title in Tubby Smith.
3. Dedric Lawson's brother K.J. should finally be healthy after only playing 10 games last year as a freshman due to injury. The 6-7 forward is a former Top-50 recruit out of high school and averaged 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds when he saw game action last season. If K.J. Lawson is healthy, then this team should have a second all-league player.
4. These two programs have been rivals since their time together in the old Conference-USA and it makes zero sense that they don't play against each other twice when every team in the American plays each other twice except for two teams. This game will sell out either the FedEx Forum or Fifth Third Arena and it's an event that a league that struggles for regular respect can actually sell.
5. It's much more difficult for teams in the American Conference to get high RPI games in conference play than teams in other power-five leagues so it's essential for the best teams to always play each other twice. After UConn, Cincinnati, Houston, and SMU, Memphis looks to be clearly the next best team in the league thanks to the return of both Lawsons and the addition of Smith on the bench.
There's only word to describe the notion that these two teams are only going to face each other once next season: Inexcusable.
This and That
- Villanova's Jay Wright told CBS Sports that Phil Booth (knee) is making a full recovery from off season surgery and should have a date set for his on-court return this week. The 6-3 guard came off the bench to score 20 points in the national title game against North Carolina and is expected to start for the Wildcats next season alongside Jalen Brunson in the back court.
- Cal transfer Jordan Mathews told CBS Sports that he will visit NC State next weekend and Gonzaga on June 24. Mathews averaged 13.5 points last season and is immediately eligible for next year.
- Wichita State will host Oklahoma State on Dec. 17 at Intrust Bank Arena, sources told CBS Sports. The Shockers will return the game in Stillwater during the 2017-18 season.
- TCU's Jamie Dixon will hire former Marshall head coach Tom Herrion in an administrative role, sources told CBS Sports. Herrion was an assistant at Georgia Tech last season under Brian Gregory. He worked for Dixon at Pitt from 2007-10. Herrion joins David Patrick, Ryan Miller, and Corey Barker on the Horned Frogs' staff.
- A European name to remember on NBA Draft night: Guerschon Yabusele. Sources told CBS Sports that the 6-8, 260 pound bruiser has performed exceptionally well during pre-draft workouts and could play his way into the latter part of the first round.
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