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RR Ralphie Report: NBA Draft Profile: Colorado Buffaloes guard KJ Simpson


News Junkie
Colorado v Marquette

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Simpson is projected as a second-round pick

Welcome to part two of our coverage of the NBA Draft! Three Buffs are expected to be selected this year in New York, so things are shaping up to be a huge week for Colorado basketball. We’ve already profiled forward Tristan da Silva and Cody Wiliams, so now it’s time to move to guard KJ Simpson.


Simpson was a hot commodity coming out of high school in Panorama City, California, being rated as a four-star recruit and the #99 recruit in the nation. After initially committing to play ball for Arizona, Simpson was headed to the desert to play for one of Colorado’s biggest rivals.

That’s not exactly how things played out. Arizona fired then-head coach Sean Miller shortly after KJ’s commitment and Simpson didn’t want to play under new coach Tommy Lloyd. After being granted a release from his NLI, Simpson was poached by Tad Boyle and ended up signing to become a Buffalo.

After arriving in Boulder in 2021, KJ was immediately thrust into a significant role off the bench. The team needed KJ to develop quickly after losing their two top guards in McKinley Wright IV and D’Shawn Schwartz, and that’s exactly what he did.

KJ first cracked the rotation in 2021 because of the Buffs’ desperate need for guard help and quickly showed his impressive ability to score on all three levels. Simpson was a bit overwhelmed by the jump to college ball and had some turnover struggles in his freshman year, but the huge upside was glaring.

Simpson filled in as Colorado’s new starting point guard for the 2022-23 season after Keeshawn Barthelemy jumped ship for Oregon and it quickly became clear just how skilled he was.

His confidence in his passing was much improved and looked much more comfortable finding shots and shooting the ball. He also emerged as Colorado’s most tenacious defense player, never taking possessions off and frequently causing issues for opponents in the backcourt.

Perhaps most importantly, Simpson emerged as the team’s leader in 2022. After Evan Battey’s graduation, the Buffs lost the heart of their team and undisputed leader. Nobody knew who would step up to fill that role, but Simpson ended up being the guy to do it.

In 2023-24, Simpson managed to put his leadership and point guard skills together to guide the Buffs on a magical season. KJ was the most efficient point guard in the Pac-12, averaging 19.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game, shooting 47.5% from the field and 43.4% from three-point range.

Simpson’s clutch gene developed before our eyes during the 2024 NCAA tournament, as he hit a crazy game-winner to push the Buffs into the Round of 32 against the Florida Gators. Nicknamed “Mr. Big Shot 2.0” and how one of the most legendary guards in Colorado basketball history, KJ will now make the jump to the pros.


KJ is a talented scorer on all three levels. If you give him space, he’ll make you pay. He can shoot the lights out but is also a tenacious driver and can pick up some tough buckets in the paint. He drives to score, but he’s also a willing passer with good vision off the bounce.

Simpson is also a dawg on defense. He’s an intense on-ball defender and fights hard for rebounds on the defensive glass. That fight in him never stops and an NBA team will be lucky to have him as a bench guard who can get a bucket and energize the team.


Unfortunately, Simpson’s greatest weakness is something that is out of his control; his size. Simpson is only 6’0 and isn’t particularly strong. He balled out in college, but NBA athletes are in a different world in terms of size and athleticism. It remains to be seen if he can keep it up in the pros and overcome his disadvantage.

Standing at only 6-foot-0, he’ll be one of the smallest players in the NBA. KJ was able to ball out in the Pac-12, but the NBA is much bigger and faster, so it remains to be seen if he can keep up in the pros. Plenty of NBA guards have managed to overcome their short height and have very productive NBA careers, so never say never.

As for his game, Simpson has had some problems shooting from three-point range as a Buff. He shot 43.4% from three last season, but he was at 28% the year before and 25% the year before that. He’s since improved his shooting mechanics and his shot selection — and is no longer plagued by his sophomore-year ankle injury — so this may be a non-issue.

NBA Projection

Simpson has all the making of an NBA-caliber guard, but his small size complicates things. If KJ can prove he can be effective against bigger competition, he’s got a fruitful NBA career in front of him. He may never crack a starting line-up in the pros, but it’s not hard to see him commanding a second unit on a good team.

Best team fits

The Nuggets need guard depth off the bench and Simpson could fit that role. He’s already worked out for Mike Malone and company this offseason, so there’s a decent chance he’ll stay in Colorado.

The LA Clippers are also in need of some bench depth and greatly need rotation players off the bench next season. Simpson could easily fill in there. The Clips would likely provide an opportunity for Simpson to play right away, which would be massive for his development.

Player comparison

As a small, fast guard with a nasty pull-up shot, Colorado fans might see shades of Ty Lawson at times. Simpson doesn’t quite have the quickness or passing ability, but it’s not ridiculous to call him a poor man’s version of the Nugget great.

by RylandScholes
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