When the Brooklyn Nets traded James Harden a couple of months ago for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, many felt they had won that trade and that Simmons would help address the team’s biggest need: defense.
But, as it turned out, he played nary a game this season for Brooklyn.
Instead of marching their way to the NBA championship, as many predicted before the season started, the Nets went out with a whimper, getting swept in four embarrassing games by the peaking Boston Celtics.
But Simmons has continued to be an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.
Simmons Has The Ability To Be The Missing Piece
There is no doubt that the Louisiana State University product is one of pro basketball’s most unique talents.
At 6-foot-11, he possesses the speed and athleticism of a player several inches shorter.
When he decides to be aggressive, Simmons is one of the NBA’s most potent and deadly players in the open court, with his ability to push the ball, hit the open man, and finish at the basket.
With his career average of 8.1 rebounds per game, he can also start the fast break by himself, which is an advantage because it doesn’t allow the opposing team to jam the outlet pass and give it time to get back on defense.
Simmons is also one of the league’s best defenders, and he was discussed as a legitimate candidate for last year’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
ben simmons' defense effort on this play was absolutely amazing pic.twitter.com/2rYkT8e84m
— drew (@Dcorrigan50) November 10, 2018
Not many players are able to lockdown the reigning MVP like this. Stellar defense from Ben Simmons. pic.twitter.com/x8KrQTNSuF
— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) March 18, 2021
Ben Simmons does about 98/100 things right. But yep, people really want to talk about the 2 things he doesn’t do. Every great player has weaknesses. Simmons’ defense on the greatest of all time was, well, spectacular. #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/JMgYR4bCpW
— Bryce Zielinski (@zbryce21) February 11, 2019
If he’s healthy next season and fully committed to the team, he can help the Nets become the championship-caliber team they have the ability to be.
He is the type of player who could’ve guarded Jayson Tatum in this series and made him work for everything, similar to the way Tatum and his teammates made Durant work for everything.
Simmons would therefore give everyone else on the Nets a margin of error with his ability to cover ground and force turnovers.
He Is The Most Unreliable Player In Basketball
However, Simmons’ problems are real, and they are always a threat to be a ticking time bomb.
It used to be that Simmons’ only big flaw was his inability and unwillingness to take shots outside of the paint.
Now that he’s not playing with Joel Embiid anymore, head coach Steve Nash (or whoever is coaching the Nets next season) can post up Simmons when the game slows down and somewhat mitigate his lack of an outside jumper.
But now, he has become a big flake.
It all started after his old team, the Philadelphia 76ers, fell apart in the second round of last year’s playoffs, losing Game 5 and Game 7 at home to the Atlanta Hawks.
Philly coach Doc Rivers was asked after Game 7 if Simmons could be the starting point guard on a world championship team, and Rivers gave what seemed like a neutral, innocuous answer.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team pic.twitter.com/8xL35u98RC
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 21, 2021
But Simmons apparently took it as an inexcusable insult, and he has created one of the biggest sagas in sports over the last 12 months out of thin air.
It wouldn’t be surprising if it drags into next season and he suddenly has a new problem with his new team.