clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

In the case of Ben Simmons, Sixers will have to trust the process one last time

Ben Simmons injury will require some process trusting for just a couple more months.

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

When the Philadelphia 76ers earned the opportunity to select LSU forward Ben Simmons with the top overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, it seemed like their biggest problems were behind them. After three years of fishing through the top of the draft in hopes of finding that franchise altering superstar, Simmons gave off every impression that he may finally be the one. He dazzled Utah and Las Vegas Summer League with an array of jaw-dropping passes, and people were drooling at the thought of him teaming up with another physics defying player in Joel Embiid.

Then he stepped on Shawn Long’s foot.

On September 30th, the last day of Sixers training camp, an X-ray confirmed Simmons suffered a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. Few players have seen their careers completely derailed by Jones fractures —Brook Lopez was in the conversation, although he’s played 145 of 162 games over the past two seasons — but rushing a player back from an injury like that can cost them seasons at a time. The Sixers are at the process precipice, because after four years of restocking, there needs to be some evidence of positive results. The team needs to be cautious in monitoring Simmons’ rehab, not only for his sake, but because the franchise has so much riding on his longterm health.

His stats alone at LSU — 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and two steals per game — are enough to tell you the caliber of player Simmons could be in the NBA, but his anticipated success goes far beyond on-court production.

He’s represented by LeBron James’s agent, Rich Paul, and spent a portion of the summer working out with the King himself. He signed a multi-million shoe deal with Nike after a fierce bidding war with Adidas, recently appeared in a Beats By Dre commercial with household names like Steve Buschemi, Nicki Minaj, and Michael Phelps, and had a Showtime documentary produced about his journey from Australia to the NBA. It’s almost as if the whole world knows Simmons is predestined for greatness.

The 20-year-old’s skill set is good enough right now to have a solid impact in the NBA. Simmons’ combination of height, strength, and athleticism coupled with his absurd ball handling will give defenders nightmares as he barrels down the lane. He might as well list his permanent address as the free throw line, because he’s going to get fouled on most of his drives to the rim.

Simmons also has the potential to be one of the greatest passers the game of basketball has already seen. He sees lanes before they’re even there, and zips balls through tight windows with relative ease. How many guys can throw an underhanded bounce pass below the outward stretched arm of a defender to a teammate cutting across the baseline to the rim?

He might just be the only one.

Today, I can say with certainty that Ben Simmons is a future All-Star. But there are obvious questions as to whether or not he can live up to the lofty comparisons of LeBron James and Magic Johnson that others have bestowed upon him. It’s absurd to put that kind of pressure and expectation upon a 20-year-old, but that’s what happens when you’re dubbed as the next big thing. Simmons’ career will always be analyzed alongside those two legends.

Perhaps the biggest weakness in his game that’s holding him back from future superstardom is his lack of a jump shot. It’s unnatural looking and inconsistent, and teams will dare him to shoot when he returns to the court. To take his game to the next level, he’ll need to be able to score from places other than around the rim, where Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid will command most of the real estate.

His insistence on scoring only with his right hand is also very problematic. Simmons will frequently attack the left side of the basket, but consistently finishes with his right hand, forcing him adjust which hand the ball is while he’s in mid-air. It prevents Simmons from using his body to create space, and he’ll struggle to finish through contact because of it. Tough shots will become enough tougher.

While it is hard to find any positives in his injury situation, the three months of rehab will give Simmons the chance to re-work the holes in his game. Head coach Brett Brown says the team will attempt fix the basics of his jump shot during his recovery, and perhaps the down time will benefit Simmons like it has Joel Embiid.

Even if Simmons isn’t able to improve those two areas of his game, he’s still an undeniable talent that will have an impactful NBA career. Add a jump shot to his game, and the sky becomes the limit.

Until Simmons is able to return, Sixers fans will have to continue to trust the same process that seems to be paying off for Embiid.

There’s a potential superstar waiting for them if they do.