In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s installment centers on high school guard Anfernee Simons.
One year ago, there was tremendous buzz surrounding Hamidou Diallo as a potential first round pick despite never setting foot on a college basketball court. Prior to draft day, however, Diallo elected to remove his name from the NBA Draft in favor of playing at Kentucky and, while he will almost certainly be drafted in 2018, the talented guard’s stock dropped significantly as a result of lackluster play at the college level.
This year, there are two unknown prospects in similar regard. Mitchell Robinson landed at Western Kentucky before an elaborate saga kept him off the court and, in the case of Anfernee Simons, the 18-year-old guard spent the 2017-2018 campaign at IMG Academy before becoming this year’s “prep-to-pro” possibility.
At 6’3, Simons does not have prototypical shooting guard size and, while he does have some combo guard skills, no one would mistake him for a point guard after viewing his current on-court profile. On the bright side, he does sport a 6’9 wingspan and a 41.5-inch vertical leap, alleviating some size concerns, but Simons will absolutely need to add strength (and bulk) in order to hold up at the NBA level against opposing shooting guards.
Simons’ primary appeal comes as a scorer, with tremendous athleticism and the ability to attack the rim as a result. Beyond that, he has the creation ability and handle in order to profile as a big-time bucket-getter in the future, especially if his jump shot improves.
For now, though, the jumper is at least a mild question and he is one of the least physically developed players in this class. That, of course, comes as no surprise given his age and the fact that he is essentially jumping to the league from high school, but you have to look deep into the future to see what Simons could be, rather than what he currently is.
Despite his impressive tools, there are a number of questions. At the moment, it is likely that Simons would be unplayable defensively, He weighed in at only 183 pounds at the combine and, with 7.7 percent body fat (not great for a prospect of his size and build), Simons is going to need a strength program in desperate fashion.
Still, NBA teams wouldn’t be drafting Simons for the present and that makes him a potentially intriguing fit for the Hawks. More than almost any prospect widely projected in the first round, Simons profiles as a player that could spend extensive time in the G League as a rookie and he is still quite young, with his 19th birthday arriving in June. In short, it comes down to future projection and a risk calculation when evaluating whether or not to take a gamble on Simons.
On the high side, he has the on-ball skills and projectable jump shot to be a potentially tantalizing offensive player at the next level, especially if he becomes a legitimately above-average shooter. Athletically, Simons could certainly make up for some of his size shortcomings and there are plenty of quality options with similar athletic builds and less than optimal point guard skills.
The decision to take Simons, even at the end of the first round, does come with risk, though, and that has to be noted. Given the projection of a “redshirt” year in his rookie season, Simons would need to make a relatively quick impact after that in order to justify picking up his rookie options and that is always the dangerous calculus with a player of his make-up. Positively, it isn’t as if Simons is operating with injury concerns, allowing his NBA team to actively evaluate him, even if not in game action. However, he is the definition of a “boom or bust” pick and teams absolutely know it.
Based on publicly available information and (very) limited scouting tape, Simons would probably be a reach at No. 19 overall. It isn’t out of the question that Travis Schlenk and company could covet his upside, especially if the team selects a big man at No. 3 overall, but Simons is a more comfortable flyer at No. 30 or No. 34.
An NBA team is probably going to take the gamble on Simons in the back half of the first round and, frankly, it will be hard to blame them. It may not work but the upside is alluring.