The Milwaukee Bucks were the surprise team of the 2014-15 season, winning 41 games and making the playoffs as the sixth seed. This was an amazing turnaround, considering just one season before they had a league-worst 15 wins. Now, all signs point to Milwaukee continuing to improve due to internal development from their young core, the addition of free agent Greg Monroe and the return of a healthy Jabari Parker. Just how good could these young Bucks be this year?
Basketball Insiders previews the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2015-16 season.
Head coach Jason Kidd enjoyed a so-so campaign as a rookie head coach with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014. But Kidd found his stride in Milwaukee despite facing numerous obstacles such as Jabari Parker’s season-ending knee injury, Larry Sanders’ unexpected retirement and a trade deadline that swapped Brandon Knight (who had been the team’s most productive player) for Michael Carter-Williams. Those types of events typically derail teams, but Milwaukee persevered and made the playoffs. The Bucks’ addition of forward/center Greg Monroe via free agency adds the necessary firepower to expand on the team’s success. The return of Parker in the lineup gives Kidd even more flexibility. Milwaukee should flirt with 50 wins this season, if they can find some outside shooting to create spacing for their offense.
3rd Place – Central Division
I can’t wait to watch the Bucks this season. As if getting Jabari Parker back from injury wasn’t enough, the addition of Greg Monroe gives Milwaukee an even scarier young core. While I think the Bucks are still two or three years away from contending, there’s no question in my mind that this is a playoff team and they’ll continue to gain valuable experience in the postseason (just as they did in their closer-than-expected battle with the Chicago Bulls last year). The Bucks had the second-best defense in the entire NBA last year, and now they add Parker and Monroe to strengthen their offense. Right now, this is a very good team and, barring something unexpected, they will soon be great.
3rd Place — Central Division
A few weeks ago, I proclaimed that the Bucks will eventually win the Eastern Conference. Obviously, that depends on whether management continues to spend the requisite money to keep this team intact. But if they do, goodness gracious, look out. This coming season, the Bucks will find a more balanced offensive attack with the addition of Greg Monroe and we will get to see Jabari Parker continue to fulfill his immense potential. So long as Jason Kidd’s team continues on what seems to be a normal and natural progression, a return to the playoffs is a guarantee and this time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucks earned home-court advantage in the first round. And yes, they will win the East… just not this year.
3rd Place — Central Division
The Milwaukee Bucks quietly reached .500 last season and made the playoffs without making much noise. More impressively, they did this in spite of losing Jabari Parker to injury. This season, Parker will be back and the former second overall pick is poised to make an impact on this intriguing Bucks teams. They landed a big free agent signing this offseason in Greg Monroe, who gives them a dominant anchor in the middle. The Bucks have pieced together a talented young core with players in the early stages of their careers who can grow and improve as a unit. Michael Carter-Williams (23 years old) will be in his first full campaign with the Bucks after being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers last season; Giannis Antetokounmpo (20 years old) nearly doubled his scoring last season; and Khris Middleton (24 years old) averaged 16.8 points after the All-Star Break. Reaching the postseason is an accomplishment, maintaining playoff contention is a challenge. The Bucks will have to jell early with the new additions to prepare for the long haul of 82 games.
3rd Place — Central Division
Everybody is going to tout the Greg Monroe signing as the thing that ultimately pushes the Milwaukee Bucks to another level of success this year, but Jabari Parker’s return is likely to have just as much (if not more) to do with any imminent success. Parker and Monroe are two gifted offensive players who can consistently combine for 30-40 points a night, which is something the Bucks were sorely missing a year ago. Last year’s team had the defensive prowess, but not the offensive talent. This team has an insanely long starting lineup with plenty of athleticism (Monroe notwithstanding), but the bench is deep too. New ownership has re-energized this organization, and there is every expectation that the Bucks contend for home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs next year.
3rd Place — Central Division
– Joel Brigham
Top of the List
Top Offensive Player: Jabari Parker
Assuming he’s back for opening night, as some reports suggest, Parker’s offensive influence on this team would be massive, as Milwaukee was a team last year that simply could not score the ball with any sort of consistency. Parker, meanwhile, has diverse skills and extended range and should, over the course of the season, work his way toward alpha dog status in Milwaukee, particularly on the offensive end. A minutes count at the start of the year could limit his output, but he’s still the most offensively talented player the Bucks have.
Top Defensive Player: John Henson
A player as tall as Henson can accomplish a lot with a 7’5 wingspan, and even though he’s still not a starter this season, he’ll get plenty of minutes protecting the rim for a squad that has had some frontcourt depth issues since Larry Sanders excused himself from the team and Ersan Ilyasova was traded. Last year, Henson held opposing big men to 37.9 percent field goal shooting and dropped their percentages 14.8 percent below league average inside of six feet. He played only a little over 18 minutes a game but still averaged a couple blocks per contest, all of which places him among the most interesting young big man defenders in the league. With more minutes this year, he should be even more effective.
Top Playmaker: Giannis Antetokounmpo
While the Antetokounmpo point guard experiment wasn’t exactly a successful one a year ago, the burgeoning Greek star has proven that his combination of size, length, speed, athleticism and handle is enough to allow him free passage to the cup almost whenever he wants it. Twenty more pounds of muscle would go a long way toward making him truly unstoppable, but he’s a playmaker if ever there was one. His specialty is tapping away a shot on defense and then sprinting down the court in what looks like four loping strides to stuff one home in transition. He makes his own opportunities, and he’s only getting better at doing it.
Top Clutch Player: Khris Middleton
In March of last year, Middleton had this great last-second three-pointer to beat the Miami HEAT, but that wasn’t his only big shot of the year. He had another great one against Phoenix back in December and certainly hit his fair share of shots in big moments beyond those two game winners. He’s proven he can rise to the occasion in big moments, and until Parker establishes himself as “The Man” in Milwaukee, the ball feels very safe in Middleton’s hands at the end of big games.
Top Unheralded Player: Greivis Vasquez
Vasquez is an absolutely perfect fit for the Bucks as a reserve this season, not only because they really needed a competent and consistent backup point guard behind the shaky and offensively-challenge Michael Carter-Williams, but also because the Bucks are a little thin in terms of reserves at the wing positions and Vasquez can play both the two and the three, as well. He’s a good three-point shooter, too, and has enough experience to help supplement all of the youth currently on the roster. He’s going to fit in nicely, and should be a huge help both in terms of veteran presence and on-court ability.
Top New Addition: Greg Monroe
The way Detroit is talking about how much the loss of Monroe is going to help their spacing and offense, one would think he were an absolute albatross eating up the paint and ruining everybody’s lives, but make no mistake; Monroe is a great fit in Milwaukee and should help bring some consistency on offense. While he’s not among the league’s elite defenders by a long shot, he plays on a good defensive team that can mask that weakness, and it’s not as if Carter-Williams needs the lane clear to be effective. Monroe posting up and knocking down high-percentage shots is a good thing for this group, and they’ll go as far as he can take them this year. Without question, Monroe was one of the better free agency signings of the summer.
Who We Like
Giannis Antetokounmpo – He’s still really young, and it certainly does seem that people are expecting more out of him than he’s capable of, but there’s no denying the fact that Antetokounmpo is one of the most exciting and physically imposing presences in the NBA. While still rail thin, he’s a small forward with a 7’4 wingspan, which explains why he’s so disruptive defensively and so quick to the bucket on offense. He has a long ways to go, but so far there haven’t been any missteps in his development. Expect another giant leap in 2015-2016.
Jabari Parker – The Bucks played as well as they did last year without their franchise savior, who tore his ACL early in the season and really wasn’t able to contribute to the organizational growth they experienced. Still, the idea always has been for him to become the face of the franchise, and this should be the year where he starts to take on that role. He’s really only got about a quarter of an NBA season under his belt, but he’s a tough, skilled kid with plenty of room to grow. This should be a good year for him to get his footing and start planting his roots in as the leader in Milwaukee.
Greg Monroe – Usually it requires some kind of trade to bring in a seven-footer who averages 15.9 PPG and 10.2 RPG but all the Bucks had to give up to bring in Greg Monroe was money. It was lots of money, but still, Wisconsin never has been much of a free agency destination and landing a fish that big was a testament to the quality of work the front office and coaching staff are doing in Milwaukee. Only 25 years old, Monroe is just entering his prime, and he’s doing it alongside a similarly tall and talented Bucks starting lineup.
John Henson – With Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova gone, this frontcourt has gone from loaded to relatively barren. The only players behind Parker and Monroe at the four and five spots are Johnny O’Bryant III, Miles Plumlee and John Henson, with Henson clearly the best bench option they have to spell either starter. He’s a defensive stalwart whose coach knows how to use him relatively effectively on offense, and that is good considering the uptick in minutes he’s due to play this coming season. Eighteen ticks a night is a thing of the past; Henson officially is a much bigger part of this team.
Khris Middleton – On the one hand, $70 million feels like a lot for a player that nobody has ever come even close to discussing as a potential All-Star, but he was a player who averaged over 13 PPG last year and shot over 40 percent from deep. He’s only 23 years old and really developed some chemistry with Antetokounmpo toward the end of the last year, so he always was going to be a keeper. Milwaukee never even thought twice about keeping him around. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how the scoring hierarchy shakes out with Parker back, Monroe in and Middleton a year wiser. It’s a good problem to have.
So much has been made of the height and length of the Bucks’ starting lineup, but it’s impossible to ignore since there really isn’t a lineup even remotely like it in today’s NBA. Monroe and Antetokounmpo are both 6’11, Parker is 6’8, Middleton is 6’7 and Carter-Williams is 6’6, and that’s not even mentioning wingspans, which are equally impressive. Parker and Middleton both have a 6’11 reach, Carter-Williams has a 6’7 reach, and both Antetokounmpo and Henson have a 7’5 reach. This shows why they’ll be such a dominant team defensively, because long arms disrupt passing lanes and block a ton of shots. Last season they were 8th in the league in points allowed with 97.8 and 5th in opponents’ field goal percentage. They also were first in team steals and 11th in team blocks, and there’s nothing that has happened in the offseason to suggest that much of that will change.
Frankly, the Bucks are an incredibly young team, with their six best players ranging between 20 and 25 years old. Even the “veterans” on this team, O.J. Mayo and Greivis Vasquez, don’t have much by way of deep playoff experience under their belts, and that could prove quite a roadblock for a team looking to mature and blossom in a season with high expectations. Veteran leadership is important for a young group like this, and for the most part it doesn’t look they have it right now.
The Burning Question
Are the Bucks really ready to make the leap?
With a strong showing in the playoffs last season, the return of Jabari Parker, the addition of Greg Monroe and the further development of the team’s talented young core, there are a lot of really smart basketball people pegging Milwaukee for a huge year and a real shot at postseason success come May of 2016. But are the Bucks really ready to crack 50 wins? Are they really ready to win a playoff series or two? Inexperience and lack of familiarity with each other could ultimately trump length, athleticism and seemingly unlimited potential. Whether this is the year they make a huge jump or not, the Bucks are on the right track, and success almost certainly is right around the corner.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers Game 3 predictions, picks and betting tips: Bet Home Court Dogs on Friday Night
Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals takes place at 9pm ET on Friday. Our experts have made their predictions and betting picks for the Clippers vs Suns at the Staples Center.
Cynics will tell you that L.A. is a city of a million shattered dreams, and if Deandre Ayton’s last second alleyoop slam-dunk is anything to go by, those cynics aren’t exactly wrong.
The Phoenix Suns marched into a 2-0 series lead vs. the Clippers as a result of Ayton’s heroics. The 104-103 victory meant Monty Williams team now takes a firm grasp of the Western Conference finals.
Despite being down 2-0 in the series, it appears the average American bettor hasn’t given up hope on the Clippers staging part one of a comeback in game 3. Indeed, why would they? We’ve seen way over 400 teams return from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs over the years. Plus, if Paul George (26 pts in Game 2) decides to wage war again, the Clippers do have half a chance, even without Leonard…
Besides, why wouldn’t you place a couple wagers on a mild underdog on the NBA betting lines?
Western Conference Finals – Game 3: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns Moneyline Odds
Phoenix Suns: -115
Los Angeles Clippers: -107
Western Conference Finals – Game 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns Spread (DraftKings NBA Playoff Odds)
Phoenix Suns -1
Los Angeles Clippers -1
Los Angeles Clippers Preview
Other than the pain of a last second defeat, the big news coming out of the Clippers camp remains the fact that the team’s best player, Kawhi Leonard, is still out injured.
Leonard had averaged over 30.0 points per game during the playoffs until going down with a knee injury towards the end of Game 4 vs. Utah in the last round. The current prognosis is not good – he will almost certainly miss out again.
There is series-hope for Clippers fans in the form of SG Paul George, who himself is averaging 26.6 points per game in the postseason; not to mention the fact that L.A. has twice before returned from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs. But they have to get something going in Game 3 – no team has ever returned from 3-0 down in NBA playoff history.
Nevertheless, what hope is left is dangling by a thread at present. Up against a full-strength Phoenix team that’s riding high on the confidence of a last-minute win, it’s going to be tough evening’s work for George, Jackson and co. come Thursday night.
That said, L.A. does have home-court advantage and di just lose by the 1 point. So, it’s little surprise the two teams have been given similar odds – Game 3 is anyone’s game.
Phoenix Suns Preview
The Suns did what they needed to do, took advantage of being at home for games 1 and 2 and now take a lead to LA. Game 2 was on a knife edge throughout, so they’re not as dominant over the Clippers as some may have thought, but the 2-0 lead is huge. As mentioned above, they’ll be hoping that Leonard can’t make it to the court on Thursday night, but even if he does, they can rely upon the likes of Devin Booker, Cameron Payne and game 2 hero Deandre Ayton to stifle the Clippers. They’ve now won 9 straight in the playoffs and they’ll take some stopping to make it 10.
Chris Paul is expected back from a stint on COVID protocol soon. But Game 3 might come too early. Expect Paul to miss out again.
Other than that, the Suns are surely shining bright en route to Los Angeles following Ayton’s heroics in the previous clash. The Clippers have caused them problems throughout the first two games, but the Suns seem to have that little bit extra in the tank: more guile; more nous, and, even if Leonard could take to the court with the Clippers, – arguably – more talent.
Devin Booker has been in superb form in the series thus far, putting up 40 points over the course of the first two contests – look for him on the player prop market.
Overall, there’s a reason the Suns have been made favorites by the NBA oddsmakers, and there’s no reason to expect anything other than a continuation of the their dominance in Game 3…
Western Conference Finals – Game 3: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns Prediction
We’ve spent all this time waxing lyrical about Phoenix, but the Clippers deserve a result. They have pulled out all the stops in the absence of Leonard and, in our humble opinion, eventually hard work pays off.
We are vouching for the homecourt underdogs on the moneyline: Clippers to win at -107
NBA Finals Betting Odds : 2021 NBA Championship Odds Update as Conference Finals Continue
The 2021 NBA Conference Finals are now underway and so look at the updated Championships odds for the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers.
Few expected to see the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks L.A. Clippers, and Phoenix Suns make up the final four of the NBA Championship Playoffs. But each team has made it this far on merit, and the performances don’t lie – the cream always rises to the top.
In the Western Conference Final, DeAndre Ayton broke Clippers hearts last night when, with 0.5 seconds remaining in the fourth, he came up trumps with a sublime alleyoop dunk. Those 2 points put the Suns 104-103 ahead, as they took a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
The Hawks are all set to travel to the Bucks for the first game of the Eastern Conference finals tonight, in a game that will see two of the NBA’s finest talents, Atlanta G Trae Young and Milwaukee PF Giannis Antetokounmpo come face to face.
2021 NBA Championship Odds
With games coming thick and fast and players bouncing into and out of form and IR in this year’s epic conference finals, it’s about time to check in and see what the sportsbooks make of all the action, as we take a look at the 2021 NBA odds for the 2021 national championship.
Clippers NBA Championship Odds Continue to Dwindle Without Kawhi Leonard
It’s hard not to feel bad for Clippers fans: without their superb small forward Kawhi Leonard, and the 25 points per game he tends to put up, life was always going to be tough vs. the Phoenix, even without the Suns having their electrifying playmaker Chris Paul out on court. And so, it has proven.
After that tough final second loss, the Clippers have seen their odds drop from +440 at the start of the playoffs to between +1500 (FanDuel). If they lose again on Thursday (June 24), expect to see the odds reach into the +infinity category, since no NBA team has EVER come back from 3-0 down in the playoffs.
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue must now be thinking about just wheeling Kawhi Leonard out there in a wheelchair for one final assault. But don’t write his team off just yet: L.A came within 1point and they did that without their best player – there’s still a chance; they make it through and we’ll find out for sure come Thursday.
Los Angeles Clippers NBA Finals Odds: +1500 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online
Suns’ Odds to win NBA Championship Continue to Rise
The bad news for the Clippers is that Chris Paul is expected to be back in action for the Suns quickly. The diminutive playmaker broke COVID protocol, which was stupid, but did get himself vaccinated beforehand (not so stupid) and will be available sooner rather than later as a result.
Plus, Devin Booker more than carried the mantle in Paul’s absence during last night’s second meet. Booker put up 40 points in total as the Suns asserted their dominance.
It’s the strength in depth and the team’s ability to hurt its opposition all over the court that has seen the odds on the Suns continue to shorten. Monty Williams’ team began the playoffs as massive outsiders at +2500. But their odds are now just +115.
Phoenix Suns NBA Finals Odds: +115 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online
NBA Betting Lines not Favoring the Hawks
Atlanta’s incredible 4-3 series defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers is the stuff of legend and the Hawks deserve a tremendous amount of credit for pulling that result out of the bag; even if the 76ers were missing Joel Emblid for a few games.
Enough about that though. With players like G Trae Young to boast among the ranks, you’d give the Hawks a chance against anyone, including vs. the Bucks this evening.
That said, Milwaukee is a big ask for Nate McMillan’s team. During the regular season, the Bucks posted the highest field goal accuracy (91.8), the 2nd most rebounds per game, and the 5th most 3-pointers per game – they are a team that can punish you if given just half-a-chance.
Sorry Atlanta fans. But it seems likely to us that the McMillan Cinderella story ends here.
Then again… we’ve been wrong before and at +1300, it’s worth a Hail Mary for sure!
Atlanta Hawks’ NBA Finals Odds: +1300 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online
The Bucks are the Betting Favorites to be NBA Champions
The Bucks began the playoffs with NBA Vegas odds of +800 on the moneyline. If you are one of the lucky ones who picked them up on those odds, hold tight: you’re looking good right now; Milwaukee fans are dreaming of being NBA Champions for the first time in 50 years.
Greek sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo has been on fire throughout the Bucks’ postseason run, putting up 30 points in six games thus far! With Middleton and Brook Lopez, in particular, among the supporting cast, the Bucks offense puts up big numbers and rarely turns the ball over without something to show for it.
It’s not that the Hawks don’t have playmakers of their own – they do. But defensively, they don’t touch this Bucks team that features both Jrue Holiday (DPOY) and Antekounmpo (2X DPOY). That’s why the odds are so short on Milwaukee and so long on Atlanta – the sportsbooks don’t fancy the Hawks to score enough.
Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA Finals Odds: +105 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online
Aamir Simms Readying Himself for His Opportunity
Clemson’s Aamir Simms is a versatile big man built for the modern NBA. Drew Maresca spoke with Simms about the draft process, Clemson’s success last season and how he thinks he fits in the league.
Clemson has produced some very good NBA players – including Elden Campbell, Dale Davis and Horace Grant – but not too many of late. The most recent Clemson Tiger who was selected in the NBA Draft was Jason Blossomgame in 2017. Before that, K.J McDaniels in 2014, Trevor Booker in 2010 and Will Soloman in 2001. Aamir Simms hopes to be the first in a while – and he hopes to stick in the league.
Statistically, Simms has everything you’d want in a prospect. He’s a 6’8” big who can defend multiple positions and shoot it from deep. He averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 2020-21, shooting 40 percent on three-point attempts and 82.5 percent from the free throw line.
Simms was also named to the second-team All-ACC this season, after being named to the third-team All-ACC last season.
But the NBA Draft is a crapshoot with hundreds of players competing for just 60 spots. Complicating matters is the fact that Simms was a four-year player – and age is not an asset in the NBA Draft.
But Simms proved a lot in his time at Clemson, and he feels that his ability and willingness to do whatever a team needs is an asset.
“My original position was the four,” Simms recently told Basketball Insiders. “But I’m comfortable playing small ball five (too). And later in my career, I want to work toward playing some three, too, like Jeff Green.”
Green, who played a major role in the Brooklyn Nets’ success this season, is among the players who inspire Simms. He obviously values what LeBron James and Kevin Durant do, but he sees the utility of players like Green, and he understands that mimicking players like this will be key in his success.
“Being a versatile four like Jae Crowder (would be ideal), Simms said. “Being able to defend guys his size. Having the mid-range and the face-up like Al Horford or Paul Milsap. The craftiness and versatility of Tobias Harris. And especially Jeff Green. He does a good job of shooting the ball, playing the post, guarding one through five.”
“And that’s something I’m excited to showcase in this combine, in workouts and even through summer league.”
Achieving that success requires serious skill and versatility, but Simms believes he’s already on his way. If you’re thinking “but there isn’t evidence that he can do that,” you’re not wrong. But it’s not uncommon for players to sacrifice their own success for the greater good of a college program – and that’s exactly what Simms did.
“My perimeter defense is something I am really ready to showcase,” Simms said. “At school, I was an undersized five, so I didn’t switch much for the sake of the team,’ Simms said.
But he can – and he knows it.
Clemson’s entire roster had only three players taller than Simms. Two of the three were Freshmen and the other – Jonathan Baehre – started just 10 games. Clearly, Clemson coach Brad Brownell had a vision for his team, which included Simms as an undersized center. And considering their entry into the NCAA tournament after the media predicted they finish 10th in the ACC in a pre-season poll, it’s fair to say it worked.
“I think there’s a lot of things that teams look at (in the draft process): winners, individual growth, changes in your stats, and consistency,” Simms said. “I think I’ve shown all those areas throughout this season.”
“Just the way I led my team, (along) with other guys on the team, I got us back to the tournament – because people didn’t really expect us to. We got ranked pretty highly. My shooting and numbers improved, especially my field goal percentage. I was a little streaky with rebounds, but I think I showed improvements in areas that would progress me in the prospect rankings.”
With Simms, shooting will initiate interest. As mentioned above, Simms shot better than 40 percent on three-point over the past two seasons – but he wasn’t a knock-down shooter early in his Clemson career.
As a Freshmen, Simms shot a pedestrian 32.6 percent on three-point attempts. But credit Simms for identifying the problem and working to fix it
“The reason why I shot so low as a freshman was that my form was coming across the left side of my face, so when I released the ball I couldn’t see as much,” Simms explained. “From the middle of my freshmen year to Senior year, I worked with (assistant) coach Smith before he went to Florida State, as well as (assistant) coach Dean and (director of player development) Terrell Mcintyre.”
“And those guys helped me improve my form and stick with it. And then, it was just spending my summers getting up hundreds of shots – 500 every morning and 500 every night to get that muscle memory down.”
But there’s more to Simms game than just shooting, and that’s what he hopes to prove throughout the draft process – beginning on Sunday, June 20 at the G-League Elite camp.
The G League Elite camp is an opportunity for 40 players to showcase their abilities in front of NBA and G League scouts, as well as coaches and front-office executives. The camp will consist of five-on-five scrimmages, as well as strength and agility drills. Top performers will earn an invite to the 2021 NBA Draft combine, meaning the camp can catapult players into very real consideration by NBA clubs. And Simms understands the opportunity at hand.
“Getting invited to the combine (is the goal),” Simms said. “That’s where the best of the best goes. I belong, but I’m fortunate to get the invite because there are other good guys who didn’t get an invite.”
This season, Simms faced off against at least two lottery prospects in Scottie Barnes (Florida State) and Jalen Johnson (Duke). Both will probably be used as measuring sticks of Simms’ potential; but considering defensive schemes, all matchups aren’t equal.
Simms underperformed against Florida State, scoring just 5 points on one-for-three shooting. But Florida State eliminates post opportunities and is known for its swarming defense.
“Florida State gets up in you, (they) switch one through five. They sit on you and take you out from catching the ball deep in the post,” Simms said. “I understood I wasn’t going to be as involved as I wanted entering it.”
But regardless of how you view Simms’ performance against Florida State, he demonstrated a big heart in coming back and playing well against Duke just one week later. While Clemson lost by 26 points, Simms performed well in a head-to-head matchup with another high-profile forward, scoring 19 points on seven-for-thirteen shooting.
“I have shown since my junior year that your ranking doesn’t matter,” Simms explained. “You play lottery picks a few times every year. That one was more of a bounce back after Florida State. That’s another one where we weren’t together, but the individual performance was what it was. It was in a losing effort so I didn’t focus on it, but it shows that I can play with anyone. I don’t care if you’re top 10 in the draft or wherever. I always feel I perform at a high level against highly projected players, and that was an opportunity to remind people who I am.”
Having to prove oneself self after four seasons at a big-time program would probably bother a lot of prospects, but it doesn’t bother Simms. On the contrary, Simms uses it as motivation.
“I am just thankful to be in the position I am because a lot of guys work for it and don’t get the opportunity,” Simms said. “It can be frustrating to be asked to prove yourself over and over, but the majority of great guys in the game have to do that at some point, too, so that’s fine.”
“I (already) have a chip on my shoulder,” Simms continued. “I come from the worst situations you can imagine, so being asked to keep showing my game and my progression is easy. Being able to put the ball in the basket and play hard isn’t something I stress over.”
“I’ve been through way darker times,” Simms continued. “Playing basketball is fun. I’ll have to show it over and over, but at least I’m doing what I love. Passion takes care of all of that. My faith pushes me through, God pushes me through. So if they ask me to do it 100 times, I’ll do it 101. I belong in the league. I believe I’m NBA-ready. If they want me to do it this week and another week after that, I’m ready.”
Simms is focused on getting the right opportunity with the right team. He’s spoken to his friends in the NBA including Mamadi Diakite (Milwaukee Bucks) and Nic Claxton (Brooklyn Nets), both of whom speak about the mental toll of going from being “the guy” to getting DNPs. But they’re not bitter. They emphasize the importance of getting into a good situation with a patient team and how it enables players to build confidence away from the pressure of the NBA game.
Still, you never know when your number will be called and rookies have to be perpetually ready. They also have to understand a team’s needs and the system that’s run. But Simms isn’t worried about that aspect. As the 2021 “Skip” Prosser Award winner, emblematic of the top scholar-athlete in men’s college basketball, he’s always been one to hit the books – and he intends on approaching an NBA opportunity the same way.
“If I am lucky enough to get drafted, I am going to spend that time starting the first night to get a feel for the team,” Simms said. “Learn the roster, who’s the primary and secondary guys and seeing where I fit.”
“No matter what, one thing you can do is rebound and defend. So that’s something I am going to do from the jump, (as well as) doing what coach asks of me. I’ve always been very coachable.”
Getting drafted is obviously the goal. But Simms understands that there is an opportunity beyond the draft. And conversely, he knows that getting drafted doesn’t guarantee success.
“Too many guys get caught up with their name being called, and that can land them in a bad situation,” Simms said. “It takes a lot of maturity to understand that it’s OK if you’re not drafted. A lot of guys who aren’t drafted or are taken late second-round are standing out (currently). Look around the league, guys come from the G League or overseas… if you can get over the idea of getting drafted and just focus on getting your foot in the door, that’s most important. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Simms has spent at least the last four years preparing himself for this moment – now it’s time to prove that he belongs. His mix of athleticism, size and skill will get him noticed, but his patience and cerebral approach are real differentiators. Even if Simms’ name isn’t called on July 29th at the draft, this writer believes he’ll find his way onto an NBA roster for the 2021-22 season, one way or another.