Is There a Deeper Cause of Ben Simmons’ Recent Struggles?

Ben Simmons
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 05: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Ben Simmons (25) looks toward the net 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 had sky-high expectations for his time on the basketball court since he was a teenager. Hype videos surfaced of him taking the ball coast-to-coast and dunking in a way that should be impossible for a guy his size. This, of course, made those videos go viral for years. Simmons was given the lofty expectations of nicknames like “The Next LeBron”. His playstyle was compared to NBA stars like Magic Johnson at a very young age.

Now in his 5th season in the NBA (although he sat out the entire first year), Ben Simmons appears at a crossroads possibly the first time in his basketball career. Simmons has become one of the most controversial figures in recent Sixers basketball. It feels as if half the fan base would willingly take a bullet for him. These fans refuse to believe he will not tap into the abundance of potential he undoubtedly possesses. On the other hand, the other half of the fan base seems to want no part of the 2-time all-star, member of the 2019-2020 All-Defensive team, and former Rookie of the Year.

Simmons’ Ebs and Flows

Regardless of where you fall on this, it is clear Ben Simmons has not played to the level of basketball that was hoped to be seen this year. He will always be a terrific defender, but that does not excuse the career-worst statistics Simmons is producing. With Daryl Morey putting a focus on building a roster to bring out the best in Ben Simmons (as well as Joel Embiid), he seemed primed for a career year. Unfortunately, Ben Simmons is currently averaging a career-low 12.2 points per game. To put this into perspective his previous career-low was 15.8 ppg in his rookie season.

Perhaps even more worrisome is Simmons is also averaging a career-high in turnovers per game (4.1). Ultimately, this has contributed to a dip in FGA per game (8.8) by about 3 shots from his previous career low last season. He is also shooting a career-low shooting percentage around the rim at 57.5%. His previous career low in this category was 65 percent, which occurred last season. Also, his overall FG% has also suffered this year and is currently 49.6%. His previous career low in this category was 54.5%, which occurred during his rookie season. Given the new spacing and modernized NBA offense that was put in place this season, these numbers are extremely surprising. It is still early in the season, but it is fair to begin to wonder if there are some lingering health issues from the back and knee issues that he has recently dealt with.

Ben Simmons’ Injury History

It was a theme in the early days of the Process for the injury bug to bite early and often. Ben Simmons was no exception to this. After being selected with the 1st overall pick in the 2017 draft, Simmons flashed his talents early on in the Summer League before breaking his foot. During the final scrimmage of the Sixers training camp, Simmons rolled his ankle and suffered a fracture in the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot. After originally being ruled out for four months, it was determined that the foot had not healed enough when Simmons was reevaluated and he was then shut down for the year.

The Aussie bounced back the following season, playing 81 games and securing the Rookie of the Year award. He earned these awards with a stat line of 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds. Simmons played 79 games the next year averaging 16.9 points, 7.7 assists, and 8.8 rebounds. These earned him his first career all-star appearance. These back-to-back seasons built up Simmons’ ironman reputation as he finished 1st on the team in minutes his rookie season and second on the team the following year.

Last Season

Flash forward to last season and injuries began to catch up with Simmons again. Prior to the NBA shut down, Simmons was forced to be sidelined with a nerve impingement in his back. The timeline for when the original injury occurred up until he was fully shutdown is still slightly unclear. However, there were reports that Simmons was even throwing up due to the pain of the injury prior to being ruled out. The 6’10 PG was expected to be out the remainder of the year but had was able to rehab the injury and return when the season resumed in Orlando.

After returning in time for the bubble, things did not go great for Ben. In just the third game of the restart, Simmons was forced exit the game after injuring it coming down with a rebound. The injury was officially diagnosed as a subluxation of his patella tendon. In other words, he dislocated his knee cap but it was a serious enough injury to require arthroscopic surgery.

This Season

Simmons rehabbed all offseason and came back ready to go this year. But it is fair for concerns to still be there. Just last week, Ben appeared on the injury report due to stiffness and soreness in his knee. Simmons missed the Nuggets and Hawks games last week due to this knee injury as well. Even after returning for the back-to-back games against the Heat, Simmons was still listed on the injury report for the Grizzlies game on Sunday.

At the moment the knee is still considered a “day-to-day” issue. There has been no indication that this is related to the patella injury that occurred a few months ago. This also is not an issue that is expected to cause him to miss any time in the upcoming schedule. Ben has also done his best to downplay the concerns saying little more than, “I feel good and I am ready to go.” It is unlikely the full story with his knee will surface unless the issue gets worse, and in all honesty, Ben Simmons is the only person who knows exactly what he is dealing with.

Going forward

Maybe it is simply taking more time for Ben Simmons to adjust to the new offense than most expected. Or, maybe Simmons has failed to adjust to the blue-print that defenses have begun to have written about him. Maybe the addition of floor-spacers was not the full solution to unlocking Ben’s game as was hoped. However, with his game naturally relying on his athleticism and physical abilities, it is a major concern if there are lingering knee concerns. It is tough to imagine that the former number one overall pick has regressed to the level that has been seen in recent games. This being said, all Sixers fans should hope things find a way to turn around.

Photo Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire