Basketball

Breaking Down Ben Simmons

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As many NBA fans know, Ben Simmons has been made into a meme after his performance in the 2021 NBA playoffs. The LSU forward had a series of lows in the Eastern Conference Semifinals this past year where in his last game totaled five points in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. 

Though he totaled 13 assists in that game, many couldn’t get the images of Simmons passing up open dunks and missing free throws out of their head. Head coach Doc Rivers even expressed concerns after the game about Simmons’ future with the team.

“I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now,” said Rivers after being asked if Simmons could be a point guard on a 76ers championship team.

The relationship between Simmons and the Sixers is shaky at best at the moment. Though he hasn’t formally asked out of Philadelphia, Simmons and agent Rich Paul gave the Sixers a green light to go ahead and look for trades elsewhere. Sixers General Manager, Daryl Morrey, offered Simmons to the Golden State Warriors, but the trade was declined. 

Many fans have had their reservations about Simmons and have questioned if he can be a star in this league. I will break down the good, bad and everything in between about Ben Simmons and decide whether or not he deserves star status.

The Good

Believe it or not, there is a lot to like about Ben Simmons. He has a diverse skill set that makes him unique in this league. 

For starters, he is an excellent defender. He was a candidate for DPOY this past season, and many thought he should have won that award. His size and athleticism allows him to legitimately guard all five positions on the floor. He has fast hands and uses his body well.

As poor as he was on the offensive end in the playoffs, Simmons was able to stay on the floor because of his defense. He did a pretty good job of defending Trae Young and stopping his penetration to the basket. 

Another area where Simmons is terrific is finishing at the rim. He is a 64.5% in the paint shooter which is elite level for his position. He had a ton of success finishing around the rim where he is ambidextrous, being able to finish shots with both hands. For his size, he has pretty good bounce, letting him rise up and finish over taller defenders.

His playmaking is another area where Simmons exceeds. He’s an above average playmaker and his vision as a point guard is superb. He had 13 assists in the game six loss to the Hawks in the playoffs. 

His playmaking abilities complement players like Danny Green and Tobias Harris as they are able to get open looks off of Simmons’ talent to drive and kick. In transition, he constantly has his head up looking to find teammates in the open court.

The Bad

Let’s get this out of the way: Ben Simmons is a terrible shooter. He has not only shown that he cannot hit the three, but he is not willing to take it. The first thing that comes to my mind is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s development with his jump shot.

Antetokounmpo did not have a reliable jumper earlier in his career, but his willingness to take wide open looks helped him get the respect of close outs around the league. Teams had to step out and at least contest because he was bound to make at least 1-2 per game if he took enough of them.

The exact opposite can be said about Simmons. Teams don’t respect his jumper simply because he won’t take them. He has taken a total of 34 three pointers in the regular season in his five year career which is simply not good enough.

His shooting woes are not exclusive to the 3-point line. He was an awful free throw shooter in the playoffs and is a career 59.7% free throw shooter. As a guy who drives to the basket this often, those stat lines are bad at best.

The one infamous play from this past year’s playoffs was when Simmons intentionally gave up a wide open dunk and passed to a teammate in order to avoid the free throw line. Teammate Joel Embiid criticized this play and went as far as to call it a momentum changer that swung in the Hawks direction.

The fear of shooting free throws and 3-pointers contributes to his lack of aggression at times. There are long stretches of games where Simmons is on the court, but seems to be off in the corner or used as a decoy. The Sixers offense played basically four offensive players at times because Simmons was that ineffective on the offensive end.

When Simmons is not aggressive, the Sixers offense stands still. They will either throw it to Embiid or pass it around until someone decides to cut or drive to the basket.

Verdict

Ben Simmons is not a bad player. He possesses qualities that teams dream of. He plays defense, finishes in transition and around the rim and has pretty good playmaking ability. 

But his shooting is an issue, a big issue. Not only because he is basically a dead weight on the floor when teams cut off his drives, but because he mentally takes himself out of the game. It seemed like in the playoffs that the fourth quarter benchings and unwillingness to go to the free throw line really hurt him.

The problem is also the way the team is constructed. Embiid, while capable of shooting the three, is best when he is down on the block. Simmons on the perimeter is where he should fit best with this roster, but there are too many spacing issues with this team. 

It is pretty clear that both Simmons and Embiid cannot coexist on the floor together. The problem might lie with Simmons being in Philly. If an NBA GM was to take a team and build it around Simmons the right way like we saw with Antetokounmpo, Simmons stats and overall game can drastically change.

Simmons is a star caliber player. He has issues with his jumper, but his biggest issue is with his mentality. If Simmons can find a team that can build around his strengths and cover some of his weaknesses, he can have a much better career than what most people expect. 


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