The buzz around current forward Ben Simmons has been around for a while. When the 6’10” phenom was at Monteverde Academy in Florida, plenty talked about the skill and ability he had for a man his size. The expectation was that wherever he went to college, he would dominate and lead his team to the NCAA Tournament on his way to being the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Well, Simmons chose to attend LSU for what all assumed was his one and only year in college. The feather LSU had in their cap was that they employed Simmons’ godfather as an assistant on their team. That inside track made the Tigers a shoe-in to get him. And with the talent they had along with one of his former high school teammates (and another high school All-American), guard Antonio Blakeney, decommitting from Louisville and coming to LSU as well, the Tigers had enough talent to scare some teams and potentially make a run. The team started out slow this season and then got it going for a little while in the SEC. But eventually, the Tigers became the same old underachieving Tigers under head coach Johnnie Jones and their hopes to make the NCAA Tournament were extinguished when they lost in embarrassing fashion to the Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. The biggest source of criticism from some observers has been the play of Simmons. Although he has put up excellent numbers, he has seemed disinterested at times and has not shown up in critical moments for LSU. And while he has been showing up sometimes for LSU, many have been trying to draw a comparison of him to someone they have seen play. There have been plenty of names mentioned in regards to his game. Some have compared his game to Magic Johnson and others have even stepped out to compare him to Tracy McGrady and LeBron James. All these comparisons are quite interesting and are banking on the potential of Simmons. But there is one person that Simmons compares to right now with his style of play.
When Lamar Odom was playing college basketball at Rhode Island, his game was very similar to what we see now from Simmons. Odom only played one year of college basketball. And just like Simmons, he could take the ball off the backboard and bring it down the court with ease. When he took the ball off the backboard, he was extremely dangerous. At 6’10”, Odom had great vision on the court, which showed because he was second on his college team in assists. And along with the great vision, he was the best playmaker the team had. Back in that one season he played for Rhode Island (1998-1999 season), Odom led the Rams to the NCAA Tournament and the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship. The Rams would go on to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but the success they had that season was something that was totally unexpected for them. Odom would go on to declare for the NBA Draft and get drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 4th overall pick. And if many have kept up with his career, he never lived up to the massive potential that everyone saw in him. When Odom was good, he was really good. But when he was not focused, he could pull one of the best magic tricks ever seen, making his 6’10” frame disappear on the court. Odom was extremely talented, but he just was never able to put it all together at the NBA level. And although he is a two-time NBA champion, he will probably always be known as a disappointment in some circles.
Simmons may or may not live up to the expectations that are out there for him. He is able to shoot with both hands very well in the post and when attacking the rim. And that with his ability to handle the ball and see the floor at his size will serve him well in the NBA. But one thing that he does not have that Odom had is a jump shot. Simmons cannot shoot very well outside of 15 feet. And in the NBA, that could cause some issues depending on what team he goes to. The best thing would be to surround Simmons with some shooters that could take advantage of his tremendous skill attacking the rim for his size and hide the fact that he cannot shoot. But one other thing that some have to be concerned with is his disinterest on the court sometimes. Although some could blame his disinterest on his current college coach, Johnnie Jones, there has to be some that have wondered about him. But in regards to Simmons, what if he is just normally a player that wonders in and out of games? If he is, then he is a headache waiting to happen for some coach that is expecting him to come in and take over. That along with the development of a jump shot will be something to watch as he goes forward in his career. Simmons is by far one of the most talented freshmen to come through college basketball. But along with that, there is also some things that have some wondering about him and what he will become.
The NCAA Tournament was supposed to be the time where those who have not seen Simmons got to see him on the national level. But Simmons will be watching teams play in the NCAA Tournament while his team’s season is done (LSU declined an invitation to the NIT). And as time passes, Simmons and his game will be under the microscope more and more. His one-year sentence to college basketball is now all but over and he will be heading to the NBA. He is a very talented player that compares very well to Lamar Odom. But for his sake, he better hope he lives up to the hype that Odom could not live up to.