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Know The Prospect : Kobi Simmons

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Can his early exit from college benefit the Knicks?

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of intrigue has surrounded Arizona freshman guard Kobi Simmons since late February. Simmons, a five-star recruit out of Alpharetta, GA, played over 28 minutes per game in Arizona’s first 28 games, starting in 19 of those. The end of the season was much different, though. Simmons played only six minutes per game in Arizona’s last seven games.

Directly following Simmons’ loss of playing time, Simmons’ teammates, coaches, and Simmons himself all gave telling quotes indicative of Simmons’ selfless, team-first mentality.

Courtesy of AZdesertswarm.com, one of many complimentary quotes on Simmons’ attitude came from Arizona coach Sean Miller :

“Kobi has probably sacrificed more than anybody but his attitude has been incredible. Above and beyond what you could expect from somebody that’s as young as he is.

...Kobi is one of the more talented kids that we’ve had and his future is incredibly bright. Right now, I think he’s focused on winning.”

Everything seemingly checked out, a young and raw freshman with talent may have to take a backseat to some experienced players when tournament time comes around. The catch, however, is that fellow freshman Rawle Alkins dislocated his index finger on his shooting hand in the round of 32 match-up against St. Mary’s and went on to play in the next game, the sweet 16 match-up against Xavier, with an injured index finger. Arizona lost that game, ending their season. Simmons played six minutes and five minutes respectively in those two games. Clearly, Miller thought that Simmons didn’t give the Wildcats the best chance to win late in the season.

While neither Simmons nor Miller have publicly given an explicit reason for the late-season benchings, the freshman’s play throughout the season could be labeled as wildly inconsistent. When game film so often showed instances of Simmons making a magnificent play, only to nullify it with a blunder just seconds later, the whole situation suddenly made much more sense.

In the above video, Simmons applies pressure to Lonzo Ball (who, regardless of polarizing reputation, is a great player) and comes away with the steal, only to whiff on the layup attempt. This is truly the embodiment of Kobi Simmons’ freshman year. The examples are plentiful.

At the NBA Draft Combine scrimmages, Simmons at times showed otherworldly hustle.

Later in the same game, Simmons would show almost no hustle.

I had a video clip that I titled “WTF? Nice Box-out.”

Two seconds later, I had a video clip titled “Is this man asleep?”

Simmons’ off-ball defense still left plenty to be desired at times.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Simmons would have a textbook show onto a big who was rolling to the rim, only to recover to his man before it hurt him, showing he’s perfectly capable and aware of how to properly play help defense off the ball.

One of the hottest debates surrounding Simmons is what position he plays. If you ask Simmons, he insists he’s a point guard, and is planning to play point guard in the NBA. Naturally, he had sequences in the combine scrimmages where he patiently let pick-and-rolls develop and executed flawlessly. This play had me shook.

From the same game...

Inconsistency troubled the freshman, but that’s often what happens to young, first year players in a big program like Arizona.

Simmons’ draft chances seem about 50/50. Draft Express projects the Knicks to select Simmons with the 58th pick. What Kind of player should the Knicks draft at 58, anyway? Well, probably a kid like Simmons.

Far from a sure thing, Simmons has talent that would have likely blossomed with some more time at Arizona. All this means for the Knicks is that a high-ceiling player who’s a couple of years away might be available with the 3rd to last pick in the draft (or potentially as an un-drafted pickup). P&T already dropped news that the Knicks had invited Simmons to a workout, so they are hopefully doing their due diligence.

Simmons’ ceiling is infinitely higher as a point guard than as an off-ball guard. Below, we take a deep dive into his skills and weaknesses at the position.

Still very raw, Simmons has plenty to work on, but possesses many gifts that are often difficult to teach. Off the ball (where he mostly played at Arizona), Simmons’ effectiveness is hindered by his jumper. While not awful, Simmons was definitely sub-par from distance (32.7%), and only 43% from the field overall.

A similar situation happened with Zach LaVine at UCLA. LaVine (whose advantage here is obviously his freak athleticism) didn’t mesh well with coach Alford at UCLA and didn’t receive a ton of minutes as a freshman. There are plenty of differences between the two (LaVine was a slightly better scorer and shooter, Simmons a better defender and passer), but both were unable to show their full arsenal in college.

With fair athleticism and decent size at his position, Simmons can blossom into a good defender, especially with a little more strength.

The intangibles and potential are abundant, and it will likely be about putting it all together for Simmons.

At just 19 years old, it seems like a no-brainer for the Knicks to take a flyer on Simmons’ potential. While Simmons is unlikely to contribute much in the near future, the potential value at the 58th pick may be too enticing for the Knicks to pass up. If Simmons were to have stayed at Arizona one or two more seasons, he would have definitely had a shot at being a first round pick. I wouldn’t be too concerned with his fit because he’s not ready yet, and by the time he is, the Knicks are hopefully several degrees removed from the triangle. Clearly interested in assets, the Knicks have actually thrived in finding unsung talent in recent years. Knicks fans should be encouraged that the organization is seemingly on the scent of Simmons, and it’s possible that he may see some NBA minutes in the future.