LSU’s Ben Simmons is considered to be the presumptive first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, though the race isn’t a runaway. Duke’s Brandon Ingram is hot on his heels and has already surpassed the versatile Australian on some draft boards.
Rumors persist that Simmons, a lifelong Lakers fan, would prefer to fall to the second pick so he can play in Los Angeles. However, he’s also doing what he can to assure NBA teams that he will be as prepared as possible to start his new life in the top basketball league in the world.
In a report by Australian publication The Courier Mail, Aussie Olympic coach Andrej Lemanis has stated that Simmons will not play for his country in the upcoming summer Olympics in Rio:
“Ben wants to have an impact in his first year in the NBA so he’s going to put that first and I think we can all understand that. He’s going to want to play in the (NBA) Summer League and become ingrained in the systems of his NBA club.”
That Simmons has turned down an opportunity to compete for his country so that he can become more acclimated to the NBA game will certainly be music to the ears of both the Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Speaking of Philadelphia, Lemanis also mentioned that the 76ers, who own the first overall pick, have had head coach Brett Brown get in touch with him regarding Simmons. The hope in Australia was that Brown, who formerly coached the Australian squad with Lemanis as his assistant, would draft Simmons and then allow him to play in the Olympics, but that rumor appears to be unfounded:
“We’ve had a little bit of back-and-forth regarding Ben, but it’s been more about Brett asking me about him than about any prospect of the 76ers drafting him and releasing him to play in Rio.”
Brown also has an extensive history with the Simmons family, having previously coached Ben’s father David when he helmed the Melbourne Tigers. With all of Brown’s Australian connections coming into play, it likely furthers the notion that the 76ers will draft Simmons with the first overall pick, leaving the Lakers to select Ingram.
Regardless of where he ends up, it appears that Simmons is focused on becoming the best NBA basketball player that he can be. A trip to the Olympics may be in the cards down the road, but for now, Simmons is going to put all of his energy into being prepared for his rookie season.