Most of the top prospects in the NBA draft will gather in Chicago at next week’s draft combine in Chicago.
The guy who’s arguably the best of them all won’t be in attendance.
LSU freshman Ben Simmons — projected as a top-two pick in the June 23 NBA draft — has opted not to attend the combine. He was not included on an official list of attendees released Thursday by the NBA.
The 6-foot-10 Simmons isn’t starting a trend. Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor — who went first and third in last summer’s draft — skipped the combine last year. In 2014, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, the top three picks in the draft, all passed on the trip to Chicago.
The likely reason, DraftExpress analyst Jonathan Givony wrote on Thursday, is that some agents “would prefer not to have their clients go through the exhaustive medical screening” that is standard at the combine.
“The physical is an incredibly important component to most team’s decision making process, and is one of the few pieces of leverage agents have,” Givony wrote.
Duke freshman Brandon Ingram, considered Simmons’ primary competition for the No. 1 pick, is scheduled to attend, a decision Givony wrote makes sense. Ingram gained ground during the season as the potential top pick, and his attendance at the combine can “further highlight the differences between him and Simmons,” Givony wrote.
“Ingram is likely attempting to show he has nothing to hide, as unlike Simmons his measurements will likely be extremely impressive, and there are no questions whatsoever about his competitiveness,” Givony wrote.
Simmons, 19, averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for LSU and was projected for most of the season as the likely No. 1 pick. But his game came under increased scrutiny as the Tigers lost six of their final 10 games and missed the NCAA tournament.
The Pelicans will have a top-nine pick in the draft. The selection order will be determined at the draft lottery May 17, the week after the combine.