For the first time in a while, Ben Simmons is back to looking like a #1 overall pick.
After two years of injury, controversy, and conflict, Ben Simmons vows to return according to reports at Overtime Heroics. But, how big of an impact can the talented Australian guard have on a Nets team starting a long-term rebuild? Let’s explore why people are so excited for Simmons next season, and what Brooklyn fans should expect him to bring to the table.
Back and Better Than Ever
Saying it’s been an up-and-down last couple of seasons for Ben Simmons would be the understatement of the century. After an incredible start to his career, including three all-star appearances and a spot on the 2019-20 All-NBA 2nd Team, the 2016 #1 overall pick, started the 2021-22 season in the midst of a nasty contract holdout with the Philadelphia 76ers following a terse playoff loss at the hands of Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.
Eventually Simmons trade rumors came to fruition when he was shipped to Brooklyn in exchange for former MVP James Harden. A back injury held him out the rest of that year, and then lingering issues persisted through into the next season. Since joining the Nets, the former LSU Tiger has appeared in only 42 games due to injury, while averaging career lows practically across the board.
But, according to recent reports both from Simmons himself and those in the Nets organization, the bad times finally seem to be behind him. In a recent interview with Brian Lewis, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year had nothing but good things to say about the upcoming season.
“[I feel] amazing. I think this is the first summer where I’ve really had to just get healthy and get back on track to where I need to be,” said Simmons. “I’m super excited to be in Brooklyn, obviously. And then we’ve got a great, great team, a great coach in Jacque Vaughn. So I’m excited. I think this year is gonna be a completely different year to the past couple.”
Speaking of Jacque Vaughn, the Nets head coach has spoken highly of Simmons this offseason and is excited to work with him at full capacity.
“I look forward to coaching a healthy Ben Simmons. That’s exciting for me. The team is excited to have him healthy, being part of our program, and moving forward,” said Vaughn. “He has an innate ability to impact the basketball game on both ends of the floor. So, we missed that in the Philly series and are looking forward to it.”
But, what does a revitalized Ben Simmons mean for the Nets’ short-term prospects? Here are a few ways that the 2x All-Defensive player can make an immediate positive impact.
Even when hobbled, one place that Ben Simmons has always shined was at the defensive end of the court. The former DPOY candidate is one of the few players in the league who truly has the size and versatility to guard all five positions when healthy.
Not only can Simmons take on the toughest defensive assignment night in and night out, his switchability allows him to easily plug holes. Next to two other elite defenders in Mikal Bridges and Nic Claxton, he has the potential to form a deadly three-headed monster on that end of the court.
A Transition Menace
Having moved on from the superstar pairing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets don’t have the luxury of getting easy one-on-one baskets in the halfcourt anymore. Luckily, Simmons’s ability to impact the game in transition gives them more ways to get points on the board.
During his last two healthy seasons in Philadelphia, Simmons scored nearly a quarter of his points on the fast break. Combine that with his elite playmaking ability which we’ll talk about shortly, and you have a player who can consistently take advantage of teams who are slow to get back.
More Reliable Playmaking
The Nets current point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is certainly no slouch in this department, but adding another dynamic playmaker in Simmons to the mix will make Brooklyn’s offense even more dangerous. Looking back at his time in Philly, Ben Simmons’s stats as a passer are excellent, averaging over eight assists per game twice.
He’ll have some great shooters around him like:
Ideally, the best version of Simmons can thrive as a confident drive-and-dish passer who can collapse the defense.
A Long Way To Go
While the best-case scenario for Ben Simmons and the Nets would be an incredible comeback story and a return to all-star form, let’s not get our hopes up just yet. The fact of the matter is Simmons’ injury issues may never allow him to regain his ability fully. And the Nets as a whole are still a long way from title contention, healthy Simmons or not. According to FanDuel via Overtime Heroics’ basketball odds explained, Brooklyn is sitting at a nearly microscopic +1000.
That being said, these offseason signs are certainly encouraging, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Simmons turn his once-promising career around in Brooklyn.