The dust still hasn’t settled after the Sixers heartbreaking game 7 loss. Apparently, that game has caused division among Sixers fans, young and old. One name has been at the center of attention ever since Sunday and it’s not whom you’d expect it to be.
There’s a lot to discuss already entering the offseason. There’s the Joel Embid conversation on his health but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. How could anyone even say anything negative about the franchise player who was +90 for the team when he was on the floor? What about Jimmy Butler? I mean, that should be the guy that Sixers fans are talking about.
Butler played consistently well for the team in the playoffs with an average of 22 PPG against the Raptors. Now they’re in a weird place because of their willingness to sign him to a max deal. But he seems to have one foot in while the other is out. Still, though that’s not who has been trending among Sixers fans and media.
There’s a case that’s driving Philadelphia locals nuts. The same case that’s making local journalists lose the hairs on their head.
It’s the curious case of Ben Simmons.
Ben Simmons. The name that brings joy and pain at the same time. If the team wins, the praise seemingly goes to Embid. Now if they lose, the blame falls on the 22-year old Australian. Why is that?
The first and apparently only issue is because he doesn’t take any shots, interesting. Let’s go back to his time at LSU.
In 33 games at LSU, Simmons averaged 19.2 PPG, 11 RPG, and 4.8 APG as a Power Forward. Keyword in that sentence: Power Forward. Now keep that in mind.
In the 2016 NBA draft, Simmons was taken with the number one overall pick by the 76ers. Does anyone remember who was taken next? Here, let me remind you. The next 6 picks in the draft were the following: Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray.
Now in complete honesty with no emotions attached, would you really take any of them over Simmons? Some of these players haven’t shown a flash of potential while others are flourishing in their team’s system. Another keyword, System. Trust me, I’m going somewhere with all of this.
In Ben’s first season, he put up rookie of the year numbers with 15.8 PPG , 8.1 RPG, and 8.2 APG. He then finished this season with similar numbers. He averaged 16.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG with 7.7 APG. Consistent numbers across the board. One aspect of his game did change though, Ben focused on becoming an elite defender this year. It helped not only his game but significantly helped the team.
Simmons was able to own the court in transition while creating plays for his teammates. This is where the tables turned. Against Brooklyn, Jared Dudley came out and criticized Simmons for his one-dimensional style of play. Saying in regards to Simmons that “He’s a great player in transition, but once you get him in the half court, he’s average.”
That phrase escalated quickly as even Simmons himself couldn’t ignore it. In the next game, Ben came on the attack while Embid sat out due to health reasons.
Simmons led the 76ers to a win while putting up 31 points on 11-13 shooting with 9 assists. So much for average.
Simmons has continuously shown flashes of greatness in his first two seasons so far. All have been witnesses to what can be something special brewing in Philly. Still though, one issue remains. He’s not shooting, so it must mean he’s not expanding his game.
What if Ben is actually doing the opposite? Ben may be too smart for his own good but nevertheless, he’s smart. He owned the point guard position last year when Markelle Fultz forgot how to shoot. He became a better defender when fans used to criticize the lack of defense from this Sixers team.
I do believe Ben will start to shoot soon, but noticing just how Ben thinks. he won’t do it unless he knows for sure that he can be 100% efficient when shooting outside of the paint. He’s on the verge of not only being a great point guard but being a great 2-way player. Something you rarely see in a 6’10 guard, but then again when’s the last time you saw a 6’10” guard? Magic Johnson was a tall point guard at 6’9” and look at how he owned the game.
I can’t help but think of how great Simmons will be. You can see it. If you know basketball then you know these kind of players don’t just grow on trees. The biggest advantage is that he is only 22-years old. By the age of 24, I’d expect Ben to be one of the elite 2-way players in the game.
My advice to Sixers fans, be patient as he grows but understand he will help this franchise reach their goal before he hits his prime. Just know, this team is in good hands for the next 10+ years with Embid and Simmons.
Until then, don’t get too lost in the curious case of Ben Simmons.