For the second straight season, the Brooklyn Nets pulled another blockbuster trade that changed the landscape of the league. This time, the Nets send James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for 2 first-round picks, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and the centerpiece 3x all-star Ben Simmons.
Ben Simmons drew many comparisons to LeBron James during pre-draft evaluations. Given his elite athleticism, court vision, and size, 6er fans thought they had drafted the next superstar in the making with the first pick in 2016. While Simmons is far from a “bust,” he has had an underwhelming career given pre-draft expectations.
Fast forward to 2022, Ben Simmons is now a Brooklyn Net with a chance at turning his career around.
Analyzing Simmons Strengths:
What are Ben Simmons’s strengths as a player? As I mentioned in my last article, I firmly believe Simmons is the best defender in the NBA. His versatility on defense is unmatched. At 6’10, Ben Simmons guarded pick and roll handlers for 40% of his defensive possessions. Simmons can bother ball handlers with his 7-foot wingspan by cutting off their diving lanes and forcing them to pass. Along with his size, Simmon’s elite footwork helps him navigate between screens to stay on his man/disrupt passes. Ben Simmons also found success guarding guys bigger and stronger than him as well as he held Giannis to 19/45 shooting over the course of his career.
I think there’s no denying that Ben Simmons is an incredible defender. He’s a legitimate 1-5 defender who, in my opinion, can clamp anyone with less size than him.
But I think it’s important to touch on Simmons’ strengths offensively. For starters, Ben Simmons is arguably one of the best players in running an offense in transition. Simmons averages 2.7 assists per game in transition this past season, per Synergy, the second-best among all players in the NBA. A fastbreak with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Seth Curry as floor spacers with Ben Simmons leading the way would be a nightmare for defenses. Ben Simmons is a legitimate elite playmaker in transition and instantly elevates the Nets transition offense.
More so, Simmons himself is an elite finisher having never shot below 67% at the rim in his five-year career. I imagine in the half-court offense, the Nets will use Ben Simmons as a roller/cutter. Essentially, Simmons plays as the roller in PNR, where he either rolls to the basket for a layup/dunk or makes the defense collapse and kicks it out to the corner/wing shooter. And in transition, you let Ben Simmons initiate the offense.
Analyzing Simmons Weaknesses:
Well, Simmon’s biggest weakness as a player derives from his offense or lack of it. According to Synergy, Ben Simmons is in the 37th percentile as an overall offensive player. He’s a very limited half-court player, mostly because of his lack of jump shot. Simmons’ hesitancy to shoot a jump makes him a giant space killer. Teams will intentionally sag off him as he sits on the dunker spot, virtually taking him out of the possession entirely.
In Simmon’s most recent postseason run, we saw teams intentionally fouling him and sending him to the line to shoot free throws. Ben Simmons shot 34% on 6.1 attempts from the free-throw line in the 2021 playoffs.
Simmons also has a tendency to not use his left hand on his dives, which is a cause of concern. Good NBA defenses will pick up Simmon’s hesitancy to not finish left and force him left, which will get ugly. We can go forever discussing Simmons’ offensive flaws, but in short, he’s a negative offensive player who often does more harm than good.
The week Ben Simmons got traded to the Brooklyn Nets, head coach Steve Nash said something important. In short, he stressed the importance of appreciating Simmons for who he is and letting him play through his strengths. Ben Simmons will not shoot or attempt jumpers in Brooklyn. He most likely also wouldn’t start finishing with his left hand. He will, however, continue playing the high-level defense he has been playing his entire career. Ben will still be that elite transition playmaker that will punish teams on a fast break.
I think Ben Simmons will look/play much better offensively being surrounded by two offensive superstars in Durant and Irving. It’s no surprise that Simmon’s best offensive net rating came in 2018-2019 when he was playing next to Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid. But Simmons himself needs to be motivated to change and clean up his flaws. He needs to work with the coaching staff to improve his free throw shooting. He needs to watch tape and realize the problem of spending too much time in a dunker spot in an offensive possession.
Regardless, a trio of that includes two of the best scorers in the NBA and a DOPY caliber player is enough to win an NBA championship. Simmons has a shot at being an NBA champion, which is enough to turn the narrative on his career around.