Ben Simmons, the LSU prodigy, is the consensus No. 1 pick in the forthcoming NBA Draft. Simmons has the highest likelihood (per the latest lottery odds) to be drafted by Philadelphia 76ers, but he wants to be a Los Angeles Laker.
Simmons grew up as a die-hard Magic Johnson and Lakers fan. In September, the Australian posted a Facebook picture of him wearing the coveted No. 32 Lakers jersey (see above).
A month later, the 6’10” forward posted a Snapchat video of him walking down the street, exclaiming something along the lines of, “This five. Number 25, Ben Simmons. Bout to do work this year (at LSU). You can catch me on the Lakers next year.”
Draft order manipulation…
There have been instances in the past of high lottery picks manipulating their way to the team of their choice. For example, back in 1996, departing Laker legend Kobe Bryant threatened to play overseas if he wasn’t traded to his favorite team. Charlotte Hornets obliged his request.
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Ahead of the 2014 Draft, Joel Embiid openly expressed his desire to be drafted by the Lakers. However, there was a difference of four picks between Philadelphia who were picking 3rd and Lakers who were picking 7th. Therefore, Embiid had no choice but head to the City of Brotherly Love.
Could ask Philly to pass on him…
In Simmons’ case, the “manipulation tactics” are valid since the Lakers have a top-3 protected pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Hypothetically, let’s say Philadelphia gets the first pick, Brooklyn Nets (who owe their pick to Boston Celtics) get the second and the Lakers get the third pick. Simmons could always tell Philadelphia and Boston to avoid drafting him since he wants to be a Laker.
You could say that this is unethical behavior. After all, the team with the highest lottery pick is entitled to choose the best available prospect. Having said that, a player’s wishes ought to be respected, too, especially when he grew up dreaming of playing for the Purple & Gold.
Recently, Magic Johnson hailed Ben Simmons “the all-round best prospect” he had seen since LeBron James in 2003. Simmons has also developed close ties with Shaquille O’Neal, a Laker and LSU legend. Simmons could be following in Shaq’s footsteps.
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Relationship with D’Angelo Russell
And finally, an added motivation for Simmons to join the Lakers: play with his high school teammate D’Angelo Russell. They played for the Montverde Academy in Florida and achieved great success in the high school circuit. In April 2014, the duo first announced their arrival by winning the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Simmons and Russell have defended each other on several occasions. Recently, when certain doubters began questioning Russell’s future in the NBA, Simmons was the first to defend his former high school mate. Coaches who’ve seen them play together rave about the chemistry and collective excellence.
If Ben Simmons and D’Angelo Russell are re-united in Lakers, it’s almost like a fairy tale. Lakers fans could be in special times ahead. It could be Showtime all over again.