Ben Simmons faced with the most important stretch of his young career

Ben Simmons
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 05: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Ben Simmons (25) looks on during warmups before the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 05, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Ben Simmons has been through some tough times in Philadelphia since he was drafted by the Sixers back in 2016. There’s been a lot of pressure from fans and NBA experts alike on Simmons to be the driving force of the team and the guy who takes them (alongside fellow star Joel Embiid) to glory. With the James Harden trade fiasco now in the rear-view mirror, the pressure has only grown.

Simmons seems to be on the receiving end of a ton of criticism from fans and experts alike, with many believing Ben is the one who is currently holding the team back…but that isn’t really the case.

The Aussie isn’t your orthodox modern-day basketball player, nevermind, your orthodox modern-day point guard. Over the last 5-10 years, we’ve seen the NBA shift to a 3 point heavy league, where teams need to have multiple shooters in both the starting 5 and on the bench. Simmons just doesn’t offer you that at all, and by this point it’s almost completely out of reality to think that he can develop a consistent shot from range. However, Ben Simmons offers you a serious amount of talent that other point guards do not. 

Ben is an elite defender – quite easily one of the best in the league. Early on this season, he is making a huge run for the DPOTY award. In the 4 years he’s played in the league so far, given he missed his rookie year due to injury, Simmons is currently averaging almost 2 steals a game and a block a game, whilst constantly shutting down some of the best players in the NBA on a nightly basis.  

You saw how much the Sixers missed the 24-year-old in their playoff series against Boston last year, but the Sixers won the regular-season series 3-1 The difference? Ben Simmons.

In those games, Ben Simmons managed to keep Tatum and Brown to a combined 21 points, 29 points, and 23 points respectively. I don’t think people appreciate how much Ben Simmons improves the Sixers with his defensive ability alone. In such an attacking and offensive based league, finding a player at any position, who can lock down the best of the best on any given night, is extremely rare and how you end up winning series against the best teams in the league. 

Ben Simmons may not develop a 3-point shot and give you what a traditional point guard will, but the whole ‘Ben Simmons is an offensive liability’ narrative is just misleading. He constantly gives out triple doubles, and became the 3rd fastest in NBA history recently to reach 30 in his career. He’s averaging over his career 16.2 points and 8 assists off 55% from the field. That hardly screams ‘liability’.

It is easy to understand why Sixers fans can get frustrated with him. His overall growth since joining the league in 2016 has been lackluster to say the least. Defensively, Simmons has grown into one of the best, however, offensively, he hasn’t changed much at all. The questions surrounding him in the buildup to the 2016 draft are still the same ones being asked about him now and he hasn’t shown nearly enough to answer them.  

All of this brings me to the pressure point. It was clearly reported that the Sixers were happy to include Ben Simmons in a James Harden trade, with Daryl Morey pushing extremely hard to make it happen. Many Sixers fans were happy to give Ben up and push for a title in the next few years with Harden and Embiid being the main duo. However, after all the pushing, a broken relationship would come back haunt Morey and the Rockets ended up taking the Nets offer. Now the Sixers are left with a player the fanbase was ready to let go and he’s going to have a point to prove. 

This moment in time is the most crucial in the young career of Ben Simmons. The pressure on him was extreme before all of the James Harden rumors started to swirl, and now the weight of expectation will be on his back every single minute that he plays badly.

I truly believe this season will be make or break for Ben Simmons with the Sixers. Ben deserves a lot more credit than he currently gets, but he also needs to prove that the Sixers didn’t need Harden in the end.  

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire