Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram face off in thriller Lakers win
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Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram face off in thriller Lakers win

Tonight was our first chance to see this year’s top two draft picks Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram face off at the Las Vegas Summer League.

The Lakers vs. 76ers game went down to the wire with D’Angelo Russell pulling out a thriller three-point buzzer beater at 1.8 seconds left to seal the Lakers 70-69 win.

Despite a sloppy and often frantic affair, it was Simmons who got the better of Ingram tonight with 8 points, 8 assists and 10 rebounds, a few stats shy of a triple double.

In his 4th game, Simmons again reminded us what an exceptional talent he is.  As a 6-10, left-handed point forward, there were plays tonight where he tore through the key and made some bedazzling passes that seemed to confound Lakers defense.

It is clear that Simmons’ passing IQ is going to make him a difficult defensive assignment in the NBA.  He is likely to dominate smalls with his size, out-skill bigs with his handles and speed and will generally confuse defense with plays a man of his size frequently cannot achieve.

In fact, the assist tracker looked like it was in for a big night, but Simmons haul of passes started to trail off as his teammates seemed to put an affidavit on converting his on-target assists.

Despite a good night, the annoying aspect of Simmons’ game is a preference to passing over scoring. An unselfish player, Simmons often ignored open shots or easy layups in order to dish the ball to players who were in less advantageous scoring positions.

Brett Brown said before the game that he “love to pass, loves to direct”, but he should be using the Summer League to make more attempts, to miss, learn and develop a scoring confidence to round his game.

Simmons only put up 8 shots, missed 5 and given that he has been leading the 76ers with touches on the ball he needs to start contributing more on the scoreboard.

On the other hand – It was a rough night for Ingram.

Up until tonight Ingram’s game has been silky smooth – this lanky kid is versatile, he can handle, finish at the rim and possess a deft shot, particularly at mid-range.  His speed of his first step leaves defense in the dust, particularly when they are trying to defend his perimeter game.

He didn’t seem to find his pace nor shot in an often physical and sloppy affair.  Shooting just 3 from 13, with 7 points and 4 rebounds, Ingram rushed his shots and the quick first step that impressed us against Utah seemed to be absent.

It was apparent tonight that Ingram’s long and wryer frame is likely to struggle against mature bodies of the NBA which could make him a physical liability in the NBA proper.

Even in tonight’s summer league game Ingram seemed to avoid contact, and when he was checked on the perimeter he was left with limited options to contribute.

However, he did step up when needed.  Ingram hit a big bucket with 1:10 left on the clock to cut the Sixers’ lead to 67-65.  It was a critical play that set them up for the win and showed a level head to do what was needed, even with a poor shooting outing.

By no means should we start reading too much into tonight’s performance.  It is too early to say whether Philadelphia chose correctly, or whether the Lakers were handed a gift.

Throughout the summer league, both players have shown promising signs in different ways, and we still have a long summer of learning ahead of us before the real NBA season begins.

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