Pelican Scoop: NBA Comps for Simmons, Buddy, Ingram, and More

Published: April 1, 2016

The season is slowly, and mercifully, coming to an end. Several months ago, we all imagined Jrue, AD, and Tyreke hitting their stride in March and leading us into the playoffs in April. Instead, this team is staying competitive in games because of Luke Babbitt, Toney Douglas, Dante Cunningham, and Tim Frazier. With nearly every core player out for the season, it’s nearly impossible to not have at least one eye on the offseason. The Pelicans currently sit in 6th position in the draft lottery, and the hopes of moving up to the top for a guy like Simmons or Ingram is one of the only things that can make this depressing season worthwhile in the end. Or maybe, the Pelicans sit where they are and Buddy Hield lands in their laps.

But how good could these top prospects be? Could they, with a healthy AD and Jrue, turn things around and get the Pelicans back in the playoffs? Well, first of all, no prospect’s future is guaranteed. A player has a ceiling and a floor, and where they land has to do with so many x-factors, that even the most astute observer can’t predict. I have long thought, for example, that if the Kings took Kawhi Leonard, he wouldn’t be an All-Star, let alone an MVP candidate. He went into the perfect environment – a team that didn’t need him to do everything right away, and slowly added pieces to his game. Then, they slowly added more responsibility as he could handle it, and before you know it, he was a superstar.

Work ethic, how they are going to handle money, how they are going to bond with teammates in the locker room (looking at you D’Angelo), how the coaching staff and system works with the skill set, etc. determines so much of what a player becomes. He is not destined to become a certain player regardless of where he goes and what obstacles he comes across. He has a ceiling, a floor, and perhaps a most likely outcome. And with that in mind, a couple of the BSS writers take a look at what those outcomes could be for the most intriguing players in this draft.

  1. Buddy Hield reminds me of….

Michael McNamara: I think that the worst case scenario is that he becomes what Rodney Hood is right now for the Jazz. Solid 3rd-4th option who is slightly above average across the board, but you can’t just give him the ball and expect him to score efficiently and create for others every night. His most likely outcome is to be what JJ Reddick is right now – a deadly 3-point shooter, who defenses have to account for on every possession, but again, isn’t the guy who you build your offense around. His best case scenario, in my opinion, is Mitch Richmond. A very good all around scorer who will make multiple All-Star teams but isn’t quite that 2nd banana on a title team. I just don’t think he will do enough outside of scoring to be an elite player, and if all you bring to the table is points, you have to be ultra efficient to be an elite guy.

Shamit Dua: Hield reminds me of post championship Ray Allen in Boston. By that time, Allen was over 33, not as quick as his Bucks days, and certainly not as athletic. He was still a really effective shooter and off the ball guy, and I think that is what Hield will be. I think he can be a smart defender like Allen was but his athleticism will hold him back much like the elder Ray Allen. One of my biggest fears is that Hield turns in the Kevin Martin. A guy that can score quite well, but literally offers nothing else of value. I think in the NBA he will have a reduced offensive role, which should help his turnover problem. But I definitely see him struggling out the gate and taking time to adjust to NBA level athleticism and speed.

Nick Lewellen: I think his floor is Eric Gordon. I’m kind of kidding, but I’m also serious. I think at worst he is a solid shooter who you don’t want running your offense. I’m just not sure I trust his size, ball handling, or defense in the NBA… Get the Gordon comparison? As for a ceiling, let’s say he continues to improve, as he has shown he can, as a ball handler, then I think he could actually like the late career Ray Allen comparison. Though, I really think he’ll average out to any solid shooter that’s a 4th option on offense, who probably fits best coming off the bench. There’s a lot of those guys so just pick one.

  1. Ben Simmons reminds me of……

MM: Simmons has the highest floor, in my opinion. The absolute worst case scenario is that he becomes Phoenix Grant Hill. He gets you 15 a night plus 6 boards and some assists. That’s worst case. Most likely, he is somewhere in the Orlando/Detroit Grant Hill stratosphere, where he is a triple-double threat every night, even though he can’t hit from deep. Best case scenario is that he becomes a slightly bigger Scottie Pippen. Think about it – ball handling small forward who can create and finish in transition. Long wingspan. That’s Pippen. And remember, Pippen couldn’t shoot a lick until his mid-20’s. If Simmons adds D and a jumper to his game, he becomes Scottie.

SD: There are a couple ways I see Simmons being used, and I think it depend largely on what team he ends up on. First, I can see him being used like Giannis is currently. Simmons isn’t the ultra athlete that Giannis is, but his playmaking at his age is much better, and is also a very good rebounder. His ability to grab the rebound and make plays in the open floor is going to translate very well in the NBA. But if his jumper never pans out – I think it will be in Simmons’s best interest to bulk up and play full-time 4. He could be a Draymond/Odom hybrid. The playmaking he offers from that position and the ability to switch on defense can be used on any team. Heck, if he bulks up and is just as successful at getting to the rim in the NBA as he was in college, he might just be a bigger version of Tyreke – which is a good thing at the PF/SF position.

NL: Simmons is the hardest guy to rate in the draft, because, like Shamit said, his career outcome feels largely dependent on his situation. And I’ve got to say I’m not convinced he’s a 4. He might be a 3, but what if he runs point on offense? I don’t think that is out of the question. At least, I hope it isn’t. I’m all for exciting, new things.  Look, he’s got all the raw talent in the world, but I think it will take a pretty good situation for him to bring all together. I honestly can’t trust him, because he reminds me of Michael Beasley for some reason. It’s not a maturity thing. That’s dumb. It’s just the one and done physical specimen thing. Still, I think his floor is no worse than Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, or any other solid forward that filled the stat sheet. And frankly, yeah, the LeBron ceiling does exist, if he can learn the game and fix his shot, but on average, I think he becomes a Draymond plus a little bit better. If he gets in the right situation, he could be a super Draymond. In other words, I think he slants towards being the prototypical wing/forward hybrid in the modern NBA.

  1. Brandon Ingram reminds me of…..

MM: His floor is Felipe Lopez. Remember him? He was the 1A to Allen Iverson’s 1B when they were in the same recruiting class. If you have never heard of Lopez, then you can guess how that turned out. Ingram’s most likely outcome is that he has a career like Glen Rice. A ton of offensive production, but never quite becomes an elite player capable of impacting the game in multiple ways. His ceiling is Kevin Durant, but to get there, he needs to hit the boards and work on that free throw stroke. If you want to be an elite wing scorer in this league, you better be able to get to the line and hit 80+ percent of your attempts.

SD: It’s crazy to me that Ingram is almost a full year younger than Ben Simmons. For an 18 year old, Ingram has shown a lot. But he hardly has any bulk on his frame and suffers from the consistency issues one would expect a young freshman to suffer. Worst case scenario, Ingram never bulks up or develops a feel for the game and doesn’t last long in the league. I think his middle ground is Jeff Green. A guy with all the tools, but maddeningly inconsistent. And his ceiling is Danny Granger. I don’t think he can be the generational scorer Durant is or the all-NBA defender Paul George is. But prime Granger was a damn good player and everything you wanted out of a wing.

NL: I love Brandon Ingram for so many reasons. If the Pelicans land a top pick, I’ll be writing about him again. For now, I’ll just give you my comparisons. As for ceiling, I actually think the Paul George comparison is possible. He’s not a good defender now, but there aren’t any good 18-year-old defenders. Still, he has improved significantly on defense this year, and I think he cares about playing defense. That’s enough for me to think he puts it together. In some ways, I feel like his ceiling is actually 2011-2013 Kevin Durant. In other words, I think his peak could be a Durant who doesn’t take the next step to MVP level, but is still a top 10 player. On average, I like Shamit’s Danny Granger comparison, but I would truncate that to Granger from ages 24-26. Back when he was a borderline all-star, but he never really felt like one to me. As for a floor, I don’t know a poor man’s Stephen Jackson? I mean that’s a nice sized wing, who is a slightly below average free throw shooter and doesn’t hit real well beyond the arch, right? Sure, I’ll go with that (but we all know he will be the next Durant).

  1. My favorite player in this draft, not including those listed above is…..

MM: I am a huge Jamal Murray fan, and I think he is just scratching the surface of what he can be as a pro. I watched him a ton this year and he was limited by the fact that other teams played zone so much against Kentucky. When teams played man, he had dozens of different ways to score, and obviously, that is what he will face in the NBA. I see a younger Lillard when I watch Murray, with more potential on the defensive end. Even the bad parts of his game – he isn’t ultra athletic and takes some questionable shots, that’s Lillard. I’ll take one of those.

SD: Going with an unconventional choice here and picking Marquese Chriss. Chriss is a 6’9’’ PF with a 7’1’’ wingspan. He is arguably the best athlete in the first round. Chriss has unreal explosiveness, but what makes me like him is his offensive game. He is very comfortable putting the ball on the floor and already a solid midrange shooter. Chriss also clocked 35.8% from the college three shooting 1.8 attempts a game. The potential for him to be an NBA unicorn (shotblocking stretch big) is there, and finding a Ryan Anderson replacement on a rookie contract is super appealing. I don’t think he will come close to Anderson as a prolific shooter, but all he needs is to command some respect at the arc like Serge Ibaka to open up the floor for Davis. His defensive ceiling is worlds higher than Anderson. My biggest worry with him is that he plays a redundant position to that of our superstar and is extremely foul prone. But if he can put it all together, the small ball potential with him and AD is through the roof.

NL: I would’ve gone with Murray, but I’ll go with Jakob Poeltl instead. There’s so much to love here. First, he’s Austrian, and I loved my time in Vienna. Second, he’s a prototypical center who defends, rebounds, and scores inside… Yeah, I know it’s 2016, and prototypical centers aren’t sexy or exciting. I actually agree. I don’t think he ever becomes a big minutes guy in the NBA, but here’s the thing; AD doesn’t want to play the center position all game. Just accept that as an axicom. Now, doesn’t having a nice, well-rounded center to play next to AD for stretches sound nice? The all-stars will probably be out of reach for the Pelicans, but Jakob is the type of solid contributor (and injury insurance) they could still use.

  1. As of today, the top six on my Pelicans Big Board (in order) are…

MM: Ingram, Simmons, Murray, Hield, Kris Dunn, and Demetrius Jackson. The first five were easy, but Jackson is undoubtedly the surprise here. I know he does not fit a position of need, but I just trust the fact that he will be a good NBA player, and I think he would be amazing in Gentry’s system. I wouldn’t have the guts to take a chance on guys like Bender or Luwawu, and I have no desire for another big like Poetl or Ellenson. I think Jaylen Brown has bust written all over him, and Denzel Valentine’s ceiling is just too limited, so give me Jackson at 6 if the other five are gone.

SD: Simmons, Ingram, Dunn, Hield, and that’s it. If those guys are off the board, I am looking to trade down for maybe 2 first rounders if possible. Try to nab a combination of Chriss, Valentine, Luwawu, and Taurean Prince. I’m intrigued by Skal and think he will be a project player, but I really don’t want to draft another big who will likely be pigeonholed into a singular position.

NL: Ingram, Simmons, Murray, Dunn, Hield, and Jaylen Brown. I know some of you just shuddered with horror at my last pick. That’s totally fair. He wasn’t good this year, but I like his personality. Yup, that’s it. He seems level-headed, and that’s hard to find with young prospects. He’s all potential, and he’s got a long way to go. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to Cal for another year to work on his game. If he doesn’t, I wouldn’t mind him in New Orleans.


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