Arizona brought in another tremendous recruiting class in the spring of 2017, and with Simmons not really seeing eye to eye with the coaching staff for much of the season, it was hardly a surprise to see him part ways with the Wildcats and begin his professional career, despite his relatively underwhelming freshman season.
Simmons isn't a refined guard at this point in his career, but a NBA team very well make take a chance on him in the draft because of his physical tools and long-term upside. Measured at 6'4, with a 6'6 wingspan, Simmons has solid size to slide into either guard position depending on how his skill set develops, but weighing just 166 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine, he will certainly have to get stronger to hold his own over the course of a NBA season.
While Simmons has some experience playing either guard spot, he is much more comfortable as a scorer than as a distributor or facilitator. He has an excellent top speed in the open court and a quick first step to get past his defender, while also having the explosiveness to play above the rim. He will need to learn to harness his athleticism as his carer progresses, as he has a tendency to play out of control with the ball at his top speeds. This has hurt his efficiency as he ended the season with just a 50% true shooting percentage, second lowest among prospects in our top 100.
Simmons has been most effective in transition where he can use his impressive speed to race down the court and get to the rim. He's had less success in the halfcourt, where he has been unable to find his niche as an efficient scorer. When he drives, he uses his an extremely quick first step to get into space and has displayed some nice footwork to step past the help defense but he lacks a high level of ballhandling skills, which limits him to being primarily a straight line driver. His decision making on drives leaves a lot to be desired, as he doesn't always have a plan when he puts his head down off the dribble and this leads to him driving right into traffic or being forced to put up a wild shot at the basket.
When he does get to the rim, he has struggled to finish as he shot a poor 44% on his 52 attempts around the basket and just 36% on his floaters according to Synergy Sports Technology. Although he has the potential to get into the paint and he is aggressive attacking the basket with no fear he will need to improve his body control in the air to become a more composed finisher. Filling out his frame could help his toughness and efficiency as he could become more willing to play to contact as he attempted only 4.4 free throw attempts last season.
Playing off the ball, Simmons showed flashes as a cutter and a slasher when attacking closeouts. In order to maximize his potential attacking closeouts, and as a NBA player overall, he will need to improve as a spot-up shooter. His mechanics have some major flaws and he made just 32% of his three point attempts as a freshman. He has a low release point and often has a hitch in his motion which limits his accuracy.
Simmons has a long way to go in developing his point guard skill set if he wants to be able to play on the ball regularly at the next level. He can be a ball stopper and doesn't always have his head up on drives, leading to missed assist opportunities. His 0.32 pure point rating was third lowest compared to point guards in our top 100 and his vision and decision making with the ball will need some drastic improvements for a NBA team to trust him to run an offense, even in short stints with the second unit.
Defensively, Simmons has the tools to be a defensive asset but has struggled to make a consistent impact on that end. When he is engaged, he can be a pest on ball by moving his feet and using his quick hands to bother his opponent. He will be able to use his athleticism to stay in front of point guards and will be able to guard some off ball players if he can get stronger.
However, his consistency leaves much to be desired. Too often he had lapses of focus both on the ball to allow his opponent to drive by him or off the ball where he lost sight of his man or the ball which took him out of the play. He has to work on bringing a higher level of consistency and effort to be a reliable defender.
Simmons is a major work in progress as a prospect but his potential is clear thanks to his physical tools and youth. While he is somewhat of a blank slate as a player, a team will need to spend significant time developing his on-court skill in the D-League to harness his potential into actual production. Simmons is a few years away from contributing at minimum, but if he finds himself in the right situation and is willing to work on his areas of improvement, he could work his way onto an NBA active roster down the line.