ESPN analyst: Ben Simmons’ decision to skip NBA combine workouts won’t hurt him in draft _lowres

LSU's Ben Simmons sits court side in the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Cleveland. Simmons is projected as the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA Draft. Simmons announced he will be represented by agent, Rich Paul, who also has LeBron James as a client. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The decision to skip the NBA combine workouts this week won’t change LSU All-American Ben Simmons’ status as one of the first two picks in the June draft, ESPN college analyst Fran Fraschilla said Wednesday.

At the same time, Fraschilla suggested the once-huge gap between Simmons, a 6-foot-10 forward, and Duke small forward Brandon Ingram, who is attending the combine that began Wednesday in Chicago, is a lot smaller with exactly seven weeks remaining before the June 23 draft.

“The only thing is where there was a huge gap about three months ago,” Fraschilla said on a national conference call, “there’s no question the gap has shrunk.”

The 63 players who’ll work out through Sunday for NBA executives, scouts and coaches will do so without Simmons, who was touted as a likely top pick in the 2016 draft before he signed with LSU in November 2014.

Word came out last week that Simmons wouldn’t be at the combine.

“It’s a lock for one or two, it really is,” Fraschilla said. “Not going to the combine is no big deal; I don’t think teams expected him to (attend). There’s nothing he can gain by being there. His body of work is his body of work.”

A better idea of where Simmons may land will come once the NBA draft lottery is held Tuesday night.

“There are things about Ben that have to be figured out in interviews, and he’s only going to interview for one or two teams anyway,” Fraschilla said of the teams that get the top two picks. “Then, the team is going to have to decide what to do.”

LSU guard Tim Quarterman, who declared for the draft and hired an agent despite having one year of eligibility remaining, was not invited to the combine.

But Baton Rouge native Damian Jones, a 7-foot center who played three years at Vanderbilt, will be at the combine workouts.

ESPN2 will have coverage of the combine from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, while NBA TV will cover from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.