Let’s get it out of the way quickly because it’s common knowledge: Ben Simmons needs a jump shot. Okay. Breathe in and breathe out. He’s only 22 years old and has a whole bright future ahead. The Philadelphia 76ers offered the max deal to Jimmy Butler, but Butler wanted out to the Miami Heat. I hated to see Butler go, but I am fine with the offer of a max deal to Simmons. It is easier to compare the max contract to stay in Philadelphia offered to Simmons when you reflect on another Philadelphia athlete: Carson Wentz.
Superbowl 52 was a magnificent event, which was a game won by Nick Foles at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. To get to the playoffs, however, Carson Wentz had statistics that put him in the most valuable player contention in 2017. Think of that, a young quarterback who is a “field general” to a whole offense playing at a high rate. The narrative was that because Wentz got hurt and Foles won Superbowl 52 against the New England Patriots, fans wanted Foles to stay and to trade an “injury-riddled” Wentz. In 2018, Foles picked up the Eagles after it was discovered Wentz had a broken back, but ultimately lost against the New Orleans Saints. This past offseason, Wentz got the extension and Foles went to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I bring all of that up because, during this past post-season for the Philadelphia 76ers, Jimmy Butler was viewed as the Nick Foles while Ben Simmons feels more like Carson Wentz. If Wentz’s bugaboo is that he is injury prone, then Simmons’ is that he needs a jump shot. Both are young players in Philadelphia and invested in as the future of their respective franchises. The Sixers lost to the Toronto Raptors on a multiple bounce shot from Kawhi Leonard in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Jimmy Butler evacuated to Florida, like Nick Foles. As a key investment in the nucleus of the Sixers roster, Ben Simmons’ was offered the max deal from Elton Brand. The high profile relationship turned drama post-breakup with Kendall Jenner is behind and Simmons decided to not play for Australia in the FIBA World Cup. On his own doing, Simmons is returning to Philadelphia to add an effective jump shot to his game. In a way, that is comparable to Wentz getting a whole offseason to work in repetitions with teammates versus recovering from an injury.
To want to pass up on a 22-year-old point guard who is the “field general” of his craft is an irrational decision. Without a jump shot, Ben Simmons averages 16 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 steal per game. How many players did that at age 22? Magic Johnson, who did at age 21 and again at age 22. So, when he does get a jump shot going in his game on the court, that 16 points could very easily jump up to nearly 25 points averaged a game. It is wild that people want to pull the trigger on a very young talent that has room to grow like that.
The assistance around Ben Simmons, as far as his teammates are concerned, offer more options to score. The key difference is that this season, the Philadelphia 76ers have another “big man” to accompany Joel Embiid. Expect Al Horford and Josh Richardson to provide needed help with shooting the ball now that Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick are no longer Sixers. Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith, and James Ennis III are other players who are going to be even more familiar this season. Altogether, Simmons getting the max contract to play with this team, newly built for defensive dominance and an emphasis on shooting, is a good thing.
Personally, my take is that Ben Simmons is going to be a player that the Philadelphia 76ers are going to have fun with on their roster for many years to come. So far in his career, for what he didn’t give in a jump shot, he has given in transition scoring and defense. This season could be where we all see a sudden improvement from Simmons and perhaps the Sixers deserve the early odds on favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals. Like Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles, I don’t find it hard to imagine Ben Simmons and the Sixers winning a championship relatively soon.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports