Brian Allee-Walsh

Can LSU's Ben Simmons transition to the NBA as easily as Anthony Davis?

FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2016, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) dunks in the first half of a NCAA college basketball game against Alabama in Baton Rouge, La. LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons, who led the Tigers in scoring, rebounds and assists this season, says he is leaving the Tigers to turn pro. Simmons, who made his announcement in an interview published Monday by ESPN, says he will soon hire an agent and enter the NBA draft, for which Simmons has been widely projected as a top overall pick.
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2016, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) dunks in the first half of a NCAA college basketball game against Alabama in Baton Rouge, La. LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons, who led the Tigers in scoring, rebounds and assists this season, says he is leaving the Tigers to turn pro. Simmons, who made his announcement in an interview published Monday by ESPN, says he will soon hire an agent and enter the NBA draft, for which Simmons has been widely projected as a top overall pick. AP

After leading the University of Kentucky to the NCAA Championship in New Orleans in the spring of 2012, 6-foot-10 freshman Anthony Davis said goodbye to college basketball and hello to the NBA.

One and done and ready to make millions.

After leading all NCAA freshmen in doubles-doubles (23) this season but with no postseason tournament appearance on his resume, 6-10 Ben Simmons will forgo his final three years of college eligibility at LSU and enter the NBA draft.

One and done and ready to make millions.

Davis achieved his goal, going to the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Four NBA seasons and one Olympic Gold Medal later, AD now is 23, filthy rich and destined for greatness.

Touted by some talent scouts because of his play-making ability as the second coming of Magic Johnson, Simmons is projected to go one or two in this year's draft. Wherever he lands, he'll be asked to breathe life into a floundering franchise, perhaps the lowly Philadelphia 76ers (9-62), which barring a late kick will have the best chance to win the weighted lottery and secure the top pick.

Wherever Simmons goes, the NBA franchise and its fan base will demand miracles, sooner than later, no matter how old the projected "miracle-worker" is.

It comes with the territory.

Simmons is a 19-year-old import from Australia who came to this country to hone his game and pursue a dream. There's no denying the kid has game. That's the good news. The bad news is he's still 19, a gifted young man with a basketball father who has dribbled his way through six-plus seemingly carefree months in Tiger Town.

In today's world, one-and-done makes him NBA-eligible and able to earn vast riches but money doesn't make the man.

Wherever Simmons goes in the draft, he will be asked to turn water into wine, losses into victories, irrelevance into relevance. You want to turn pro at age 19? You want to play with men? You want to be rich? You want to become a superstar?

Then do your job and do it well. Boom or bust? What will it be?

Simmons no longer will be the Big Man on Campus. But he will be a marked man in a strange city with a huge dollar sign on his back.

That can be a heavy burden for a 19-year-old, especially one who is incapable of shouldering the load.

Davis has been up to the task, playing hurt, posting double-doubles with regularity, a three-time all-star doing his level best to make chicken salad out of, well, you know. He has grown up in a hurry.

Time will tell with Ben Simmons.

Two things are certain: Here he comes, ready or not. And there is no turning back.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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