A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The case for Ben Simmons over Brandon Ingram being an easier call than advertised

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Simmons vs Ingram is considered a dead heat. The Lakers are co-winners cause they get to just sit back and grab whoever’s left.

Or is it? I enjoyed this Libertyballers post “Just Fucking Take Simmons”. I see evidence for Simmons as the guy also.

For me it’s all about production. Here is their per 40 stats:

Simmons: 22.2 pts, .60 TS%, 13.5 reb, 5.5 ast, 2.3 stl, 0.9 blk, 3.6 TOV, 27.2 PER

Ingram: 20.0 pts, .55 TS%, 7.8 reb, 2.3 ast, 1.3 stl, 1.6 blk, 2.3 TOV, 21.1 PER

Simmons is 1st in the SEC in PER, 3rd in reb/40, 5th in stl/40, 10th in ast/40. Ingram is 20th in the ACC PER, his best stats are 13th in pts/40 and 16th in blks/40, not coming near Simmons rebounding, steals or assists dominance compared to PFs. He had a quality season but in the same way Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal did in college.

When you consider how great his Ast/40 is for a PF, it’s fair to call Simmons a sure thing to pass at a standout level for his position. When you consider his elite Reb/40 and his size and athleticism, that’s likely in the bag. When you consider his athleticism, strength and ranking 1st in the SEC in FTA/40, attacking the basket is a likely near guaranteed skill too.

Without the same top 10 statistical performances, Ingram doesn’t have this. His closest guaranteed skill may be taking shots. He’s in 8th in the ACC in FGA/40 in addition to the 13th in Pts/40. He has the tools for this with the length to shoot over anyone.

But the days of valuing 20 point a game scorers who create their own midrange are dwindling. The priority is now shots at the rim, 3s, passing and defense.

The pro-Ingram take is normally his 3s and defense make him that modern player. He is ranked 9th in the ACC for 3pt shooters attempting more than 1 per game (41%), 23rd in 3PA/40 (6.3) and 62nd in FT (68.2%). In those stats Durant rated 19th, 14th and 8th respectively his draft year.

I value volume and FT% to project shooters because the NCAA season is a small sample size. Take the difference between Ingram’s 41% and Malachi Richardson’s 35% who is not considered in his class as a shooter. Richardson shoots a higher volume (7.0 3PA/40) and FT% (72.0%). Ingram went 80 for 195 from 3, Richardson went 79 for 224. The swing between their 3P% comes down to about 11 or 12 made 3s. If Ingram went 75 for 195 and Richardson went 86 for 224 their 3P% is both 38.4%. Not only could the difference between their 35% and 41% be liable to variance, but context. What if one player had to force end of shot clock prayers more often? Or one player especially benefitted from teammates getting him open shots? Using FT% both adds more information and is free of contextual effect of teammates/situation. I still value Ingram’s 3P% but my compromise is to call him a 6 or 7 out of 10 talent in the skill. Good but not a guaranteed lights out guy. More Barnes than Durant.

As for his defense. Ingram has an elite wingspan. But I see defense as a combination of length, frame, athleticism, positional IQ, motor, toughness. Ingram’s case outside of his length isn’t as strong. Here is Draftexpress  on him:

“Defensively is where Ingram surprised many this year with his underrated combination of toughness and competiveness. While his fundamentals need work, his size, length and reach gives him great versatility when paired with his willingness to get stops. He showed the ability to switch out onto guards effectively at times out of pick and rolls from the power forward position, sagging off and staying in front, while still getting a hand up to contest thanks to his 7’3 wingspan.

With that said, Ingram still has a ways to go to become a more consistent defender, something that clearly didn’t become a priority for him until arriving in college. He can get a little sleepy at times and lose his focus, closing out lackadaisically, standing around off the ball and looking hunched over in his stance guarding the perimeter. Duke had one of the smallest rotations in high major college basketball and couldn’t afford for Ingram to get in foul trouble, which didn’t always lead to him operating with the highest intensity at all times. Once again, getting stronger will help, as he tends to get caught up on screens quite a bit on the perimeter and can get pushed around inside the paint.

Upside and Motor wrote this:

His defensive potential is really confusing. There are times when Ingram looks like an elite defender, something that he is capable of being due to his length. There are other times, however, where he is undisciplined and confused. He too often leaves his feet to contest jump shots and chase blocks. Here, he unnecessarily helps down, probably chasing a come-from-behind block, and leaves his man wide open.”

“Ingram’s length can help him make up for it at times, but for the most part the motor and consistency isn’t there. He doesn’t have the type of elite athleticism to help him get away with this all the time. He’s not particularly fast on his feet and he doesn’t get in his stance often enough. For a player with exceptionally long legs, standing straight up can be the kiss of death. He switches out on to a guard here but gets off balance and can’t recover on the step back jumper when he stands up.”

There are times where Ingram looks like a monster on that end, especially when he is locked in. This makes it even more frustrating when he gets scored on because he isn’t sitting in a stance or he is biting on a shot fake. If he wants to improve on that end, he needs to stay dialed in every possession.”

Both recognize his potential but do not rave about his current ability. While he could translate his length into great D he could also end up bullied due to his body, caught upright and flat footed and just not smart or tough enough.

Ingram’s 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per 40 is solid but unspectacular and also reflective of a non-elite defender in college.

He has promise on that end but this is not a guaranteed skill. And that’s where I see the difference between him and Simmons. Simmons has not only tools but the elite track record in NCAA in areas like attacking the rim, passing, rebounding, stealing. Outside of possibly taking creating his own FGA, Ingram does not have both this track record of excellence in addition to the tools, when considering his 3pt is less a closed case than it looks. Sure, if everything goes perfectly, Ingram has a non-zero chance of being Durant. But max upside is not something he has to hold over Simmons, who it’s not inconceivable could be Lebron or Magic. May as well just take Simmons.

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Written by jr.

May 19, 2016 at 2:32 pm

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