Basketball

Alright Folks: Ben Simmons Isn’t That Good

Ben Simmons
Image via Getty/Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE

Alright Folks: Ben Simmons isn’t that Good.

Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Kemba Walker for Boston. Kyrie Irving for Brooklyn. RJ Barret and Elfrid Payton for New York. Ben Simmons and Seth Curry for Philadelphia. Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry for Toronto. Zach Lavine and Coby White for Chicago. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland for Cleveland. Malcolm Brogdon for Indiana. Donte DiVincenzo and Jrue Holiday for Milwaukee. Kevin Huerter and Trae Young for Atlanta. Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham for Charlotte. Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn for Miami. Dwayne Bacon for Orlando. Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal for Washington. James Harden for Brooklyn (acquired from HOU), Caris LeVert for Indiana (acquired from BKN), and Derrick Rose for New York (acquired from DET, received 1 MVP vote).

Outside of Harden, LeVert, and Rose, all the above guards started at least 40 games for a team in the east. These players, minus LeVert and Rose, were all on the same All-Star ballot as Philly’s Ben Simmons. But somehow, whatever type of basketball Simmons plays in Philadelphia has earned him three straight All-Star selections from 2019-2021, 2018 Rookie of the Year, and 2 All-Defensive 1st Teams in 2020 and 2021.

Who Is Ben Simmons?

Ben Simmons was the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft out of LSU. From Australia, Simmons plays for their national team whenever he is out of season. Simmons was one of many draft picks selected in Philadelphia’s rebuild known as “The Process,” which saw the team tank for higher picks for an extended period of time. Their slogan, “Trust the Process,” is chanted by fans in the arena as the team continues their quest towards a championship. All moves made during The Process were with the intention of bringing winning basketball back to the City of Brotherly Love. Some moves have been successful, such as the draft selection of center Joel Embiid. However, the selection of Simmons is questioned by more and more 76ers fans every year, and this year, it seemed to reach a tipping point.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Sixers faced the Atlanta Hawks in a series Philly was heavily favored to win. Instead, Embiid seemed to be the only player to show up on the team. With a lethal offense featuring Trae Young & Co. for Atlanta, the efforts of Philadelphia fell short as the Hawks moved on after a 4-3 series victory. Simmons hardly showed up in any of the seven games, scoring 17, 4, 18, 11, 8, 6, and 5.

In the 2020-2021 regular season, Simmons’ production wasn’t much better. The Louisiana State product ranked 66th in the NBA with a measly 14.7 points per game. He logged 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists, ranking 31st and 12th, respectively. Defensively, Simmons ranked 13th in blocks with 0.8 per game (ranking 3rd on the team behind Embiid and Matisse Thybulle) and 12th in the league with 1.3 steals per game (2nd on the team behind Thybulle).

Overall, the Philly guard’s numbers would undoubtedly earn him a roster spot on any NBA team, but in no way do those numbers qualify him to be in a starring role of a 1-2 punch on a playoff team. Even on his team, both Embiid as a star center and Thybulle as a defensive ace fit the slot the team attempts to put Simmons in. With the lack of scoring on the Sixers roster, the front office simply needs to find two guards who can score. Even if these guards had half of Simmons’ defense, it would be enough to limit potential threats on the opposing side.

Seeing that Ben Simmons is a 3-time All-Star is mind-boggling to most. The backcourt talent of the East does not level up to the skill at the same positions in the West, with all of the top teams featuring at least one superstar guard. However, the list mentioned in the beginning does include some big names that pop out as stars before Simmons.

Why Simmons doesn’t deserve an All Star bid?

First and foremost, Ben can’t shoot. A simple search provides results such as his lack of shooting, the caution he airs before shooting, and the statement: “Ben Simmons can’t shoot.” He is known for his inability to shoot a three-pointer, but the league has begun to notice discovered that he cannot really shoot from anywhere. Teams began to use a strategy called “Hack-A-Ben,” likely referring to fellow LSU alum Shaquille O’Neal and how teams called the “Hack-A-Shaq” strategy to make him shoot and likely miss free throws. These concepts received similar outcomes, as Simmons ranked 82nd out of 82 qualified free throw shooters in free throw percentage (34.2%). Simply put and proven, Ben can’t shoot.

Second, Ben shouldn’t be starting. Most normal starting guards tend to score about 20 points and attempt roughly six three-pointers every game. In addition, each guard seems to break out offensively in one way or another every so often. The only breaking out Simmons does often shows in triple-doubles, which tend to look more like 10-10-10 instead of a more flashy points total. His defense is undoubtedly appreciated, as the team is stout in many defensive categories, but an offensive player in his current role would be much more beneficial to the team. Given that there might not be many other options for any 6th man to come in for Simmons, the front office should be on the lookout for a solid scorer to come off the bench in place of the star defensive guard.

Third, Ben looks uncomfortable on the court. He relies too much on other teammates, namely Embiid, to put up numbers so he can succeed. The team leads the NBA with a +7.5 point differential, and although a majority of that success comes from defense, there needs to be offense to win games as well. If Embiid was not on the squad, who would Simmons give assists to? If there were no other defensive options, how would Simmons react? These are some of the ‘what if’ scenarios, but would Simmons be a star if certain pieces were not around? Would he even be a relevant player?

Simmons is unquestionably solid enough to be a rotational piece on any NBA roster. However, the average-looking statistics and his performance that meets the eye might say otherwise. His statistics show that the first overall pick might have been a reach to grab Simmons, and his overall performance doesn’t look like that of an All-Star. Sure, Philadelphia fans are furious due to the lack of contribution Simmons gave during the playoffs and for the past couple of seasons, but they seem to be stuck with him. He just finished his first year of a 5-year, $177.2 million maximum contract, and no team looks desperate to trade for Simmons. Sixers fans will have to hope Simmons will either grow into a better basketball player or for a savior to be drafted soon for their process to come full circle.

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