When Ben Simmons was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the
2016 NBA Draft, the hope was that he could potentially be next in
the line of generational, all-around superstars. LeBron James was
even uttered as a comparison by some national prognosticators
before Simmons suited up at LSU for his lone collegiate season.
The Philadelphia 76ers won the NBA Draft Lottery that year and
paired Simmons with Joel Embiid, a duo that formed instant
chemistry and helped Philly shoot up the Eastern Conference
standings soon after. Simmons had his faults, especially
well-documented on the offensive end, but his unique strengths as a
jumbo-sized playmaker and two-way engine made a potential ceiling
After a tumultuous ending to his five-year stint in Philadelphia
— being publicly called out by Embiid and
head coach Doc Rivers in the East semifinals — Simmons can
finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
To properly optimize the talent of Simmons on the court, the
Brooklyn Nets are the best fit on-paper to bring out his special
two-way potential. Alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with the
Nets, Simmons will enter as a moldable ball of clay who can play a
multitude of roles. Simmons can not only run an offense setting up
his superstar teammates, but he can also operate as a pick-and-roll
threat rolling to the basket. On top of that, his speed for a
near-seven-footer makes him a lethal weapon to deploy in transition
opportunities, which will be plentiful in Brooklyn.
Picture Draymond Green during the Golden State Warriors’
championship years. He was the glue that kept it all together, as
he still does today during their resurgent comeback. In Brooklyn,
Simmons can be the fulcrum of the Nets' system next to Durant and
Irving. Not only can Simmons defend at an All-NBA level, but he can
start scoring opportunities off the rebound with reckless abandon.
Irving will quickly mesh with Simmons as well in three-man spots
where pick-and-roll situations, plus a moving Durant, is on the
table each possession.
It’s an exciting thought exercise to finally envision Simmons at
his max levels, especially when two of his newest teammates are
some of the greatest scorers ever.
In the playoffs against teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami
Heat and Philadelphia 76ers (ironically enough), Simmons will
present real tangible issues consistently thanks to his new
environment. Durant and a part-time Irving are going to make
Simmons’ life a whole lot easier. Blending in with a pair of
three-level marksmen compared to Embiid will finally place Simmons
in a more palpable situation to tap into his multi-tooled impacts
on a basketball court.
Thursday’s blockbuster involving James Harden and Simmons will
always be remembered not only as a pivotal point in each of their
careers, but for these respective franchises as well. With the
Sixers going all-in to maximize a title window, Brooklyn remains on
a similar path long-term, simply swapping out a high-usage guard
for a low-usage superstar who can thrive in a unique role.
Let’s take a look now at the Nets’ potential new rotation, one
that brings aboard more shooting and two-way versatility:
Starters: Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Kevin Durant, Ben
Simmons, LaMarcus Aldridge
Bench: Patty Mills, Cam Thomas, Bruce Brown, Kessler
Edwards, James Johnson, Blake Griffin, Nic Claxton
When the Nets are in the postseason, I'd expect them to flip
Simmons into a full-time center role, but it wouldn’t be surprising
to see head coach Steve Nash utilize Aldridge at center with his
Simmons is only 25 years old, and his true upside has fallen
under the radar since his postseason disappearance. Buying into a
more complementary role and admitting he’s not the star of the show
will do wonders for him. Simmons has reportedly already spoken to
Durant and is excited about his future in Brooklyn.
Through his five years on the court in Philadelphia, Simmons
filled up the stat sheet, averaging 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7
assists, 1.7 steals on a 57.9% True Shooting percentage. The warts
are instantly acknowledgeable in his game, but Simmons joining the
Nets’ ecosystem could be a huge turning point that we look back on
in the Association's history books.
If Simmons recaptures his All-NBA form and settles in perfectly
as Durant’s sidekick in his new home, the Nets will have made
themselves a more chameleon-like team that's able to adapt in
all-or-nothing postseason play.
Simmons has yet to reach his ceiling, and Brooklyn was forced to
roll the dice with Harden’s malcontent; both moves could be a
blessing in disguise down the road.
Not only will Simmons help the Nets in the near future by
racking up triple-doubles and contributing on both ends, perhaps he
can become Brooklyn's franchise cornerstone and eventually usher in
a new, fruitful era post-Durant.
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