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Is Ben Simmons really the right pick for the 76ers?

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Does Philadelphia finally have the superstar it's been seeking? Ricky O'Donnell and Kevin O'Connor discuss where the Sixers go from here.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Draft season approachin'! Before the Philadelphia 76ers officially go on the clock, Ricky O'Donnell and Kevin O'Connor discuss the give and take of picking Ben Simmons' No. 1 overall, which seems close to a foregone conclusion at this point.

Ricky O'Donnell: For an event that generates nearly year-round discussion, the NBA Draft sure has a way of sneaking up on us. This year we get the draft four days after the end of the finals, which is wonderful and overwhelming at the same time. The Philadelphia 76ers are on the clock, and the entire world seems convinced at what they're going to do.

It was only a couple months ago that Ben Simmons vs. Brandon Ingram appeared to be the closest race for No. 1 since Greg Oden vs. Kevin Durant. When the Sixers won the lottery, that speculation ended quickly. Barring something totally unforeseen, Simmons is going to be the pick.

My question for you then, draft expert Kevin O'Connor: is Simmons the right pick? Don't the Sixers have enough great young talent in the front court? Don't they desperately need the type of shooting on the wing Ingram can provide? Don't have already own the rights to a player with a similar skill set to Simmons in Dario Saric? Is going "best player available" the no-brainer move here or am I overthinking this?

Kevin O'Connor: The selection of Simmons is neither right nor wrong because of his talent level. He's right because he's a supremely talented passer in a forward's body. He's right because he can rip down rebounds, race the ball up the court and ferociously dunk the ball. He's right because the Sixers simply need talent, period.

But Simmons is wrong in other ways. He's a non-shooter. He showed poor effort levels, especially on defense, in a losing situation at LSU. And it'll be difficult for the Sixers to integrate him without tearing apart many of the pieces Sam Hinkie already attained. Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor both don't shoot well, and Joel Embiid can only theoretically shoot threes, so Simmons doesn't aid their spacing or defensive issues.

Of course, roster turnover happens quickly in the NBA. But Ingram can easily be integrated in with their lineups now and in the future because of his ability to stroke threes. And it's not like he's a poor ball handler or passer. He's actually pretty good at running pick-and-roll and finding open shooters. Plus, his effort levels on defense were significantly higher, so he shares the same level of versatility on defense.

O'Donnell: I'm glad you mentioned Simmons' ability to grab and go, because that's going to be a joy to watch in the league. He's a great defensive rebounder -- No. 25 in the country in defensive rebound rate last season, per KenPom -- and that combined with his speed and ball handling is going to make him a terror in transition.

It's almost like all of the attention on his passing ability makes people forget just how big and fast this dude is. He's a fantastic athlete for 6'10, 240 pounds. Ingram isn't in the same zip code in terms of explosiveness.

My only worry with Simmons in Philly is that they don't currently have the personnel around him to accentuate his strengths and mask his weaknesses. Like you said, things can change quickly. Obviously, finding shooters in the backcourt and on the wing is a must. I also think they will need to prioritize rim protection next to him at the five.

O'Connor: Simmons can work well if the Sixers feel confident that Embiid can space the floor and drain three-pointers, and Saric actually comes over. That way they can have a lineup with Embiid, who could shoot threes and serve as a rim protector, Saric does a lot of things well, and then Simmons serves as the jumbo-sized point guard.

All indications are that they'll continue to run a multiple ball-handler system, which explains their reported interest in Providence point guard Kris Dunn. Simmons' off-ball shooting may still be a huge problem. It'd be one thing if they put the ball in his hands all game, but they might not do that. He's still a virtual non-factor without the ball in the half court -- assuming he doesn't suddenly improve as a jumper, and I'm not confident he will since he might be shooting with the wrong hand.

If Saric -- or another primary ball handler -- is handling the rock, Simmons doesn't offer much offensively, but Ingram does have an effect, regardless. That's why I lean towards him as the choice. Saric isn't nearly as quick or explosive as Simmons, but he can do a lot of the same things as a big guard and still play well off-ball. Ingram brings a new element with his potential to be an efficient scorer in the half court.

I realize I'm not taking a hard stance here, because I think they can make Simmons work. It just won't happen as easily as it could with Ingram because of the roster personnel and issues some teams have in today's NBA building around non-shooting cornerstones.

O'Donnell: What would a quality supporting cast around Simmons realistically look like? Are there any potential trade targets or free agent signings you think would work well in Philly?

Also: am I crazy for thinking Nerlens Noel is a better fit next to him than Jahlil Okafor?

O'Connor: It makes sense to chase wings that can stroke threes, like restricted free agents Evan Fournier and Allen Crabbe. I'm not sure they'd be willing to sign an offer sheet in Philly though if other teams closer to contention come calling with similar offers.

The Sixers can find shooters at the back of the first round anyway, where they have picks 24 and 26 -- or they could always attempt to consolidate those picks. They should have their sights set on players like Furkan Korkmaz, Patrick McCaw, Denzel Valentine, and Tyler Ulis. All those guys can splash threes, but they can also handle the rock, which fits their preferred style.

O'Donnell: Embiid is really the key to all this, isn't he? It feels unfair to place great expectations on him after he missed two full seasons. The goals for him have to start small, like just getting on the court. It's important to remember that this is a player who didn't even have much experience playing the game when he was taken No. 3 overall in the 2014 draft.

The talent Embiid displayed in his one season at Kansas was undeniable, though. If he shows he can still be the same athlete, the Simmons-Embiid pairing is going to be one hell of a foundation.

O'Connor: It's only unfair to place those expectations on Embiid because he has been out of basketball for two years. But prior to his injury I felt he was a Karl-Anthony Towns level prospect. That hasn't changed, but "availability" is the best skill in all of sports -- and right now he hasn't proven he can be available.

So, in that sense, Embiid is the key.

And that's why the Sixers should value him more than both Noel and Okafor. The only real obstacle for the Sixers is to find a home for Okafor. Chad Ford recently reported they can't even find a top-five pick for him, and personally I'd be willing to settle for anything in the No. 6 to 8 range.

That way they could end up with Simmons and the best player available in that range. The consensus would hope for Jamal Murray or Kris Dunn there, but I think Dragan Bender would be the ideal pick after Simmons or Ingram.

Imagine a lineup with Embiid, Bender, Saric, Simmons, and a versatile wing shooter (let's pretend they use the 24th pick on Denzel Valentine). The Sixers could space the floor, because of Bender, Saric, Valentine, and maybe Embiid. They could feed Embiid or Simmons inside. Bender, Saric, Simmons, and Valentine can all handle the ball. All five players can switch on defense. Embiid can also serve as a classic rim protector.

The Warriors established the blueprint for success in the new NBA by showing how valuable versatility can be on both ends of the floor. The Sixers are in a position to take it to the next level if they make the right moves starting on draft night. It might be easier to accomplish by going with Ingram, since fewer pieces need to be moved. But it can certainly work in an incredible way with Simmons.

O'Donnell: I think that's the first time someone has ever earnestly compared the Warriors and 76ers. Bring on draft season!

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