As we make our way toward training camp, we’ll be examining what would constitute a successful season for various members of the roster. Previously covered: Markelle Fultz. Next up: Ben Simmons.
Ben Simmons is the motor that makes the Philadelphia 76ers run. He may not be the most polished or even the best player on the team, but he is the one in control of the offense and a focal point on defense. In his first taste of NBA basketball last season, he proved to be one of the most exciting young players in the league, showing the upside that could make him one of its best players in due time. Helping his team achieve some playoff success and wrapping up the year by winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award, Simmons had a nice introductory year. But now that the rest of the league knows exactly what he is capable of, he will need to keep moving forward in order to maintain this level of success.
As the main facilitator on the Sixers, it is Simmons’ job to make the offense multidimensional and hard to defend. He can only do so much of that when defenses know he can’t score outside of the lane. We saw glimpses of his jumper throughout the season but it was never reliable enough to become a regular part of his offensive repertoire. That needs to change quickly. In order for both the Sixers and Simmons himself to have a successful season, Simmons needs to grow offensively and make defenses respect him at all levels, not just when he drives to the basket.
Simmons was so impressive when given room to pick up speed on his way to the lane, but now that defenses key in on that, they will be able to close in quicker. It is his job to continually grow, and to make himself a more well-rounded player, he needs to rely on his mid-range jumper, no matter the results. Rough patches are sure to come, but he needs to shoot through them so that defenders will respect him. If given the room to shoot, Simmons needs to be able to make defenses pay instead of driving or passing out. His jump shot, and decision on which hand to even shoot with, is obviously his biggest question mark heading into the season, but it isn’t the only one.
While fans grew accustomed to highlight dunks and assists from Ben Simmons in his rookie year, at points he seemed reluctant to shoulder the load. Whether it be from trying to find shots for his teammates or maybe some hesitancy about his offensive game, it felt like Simmons played timid sometimes. Now I don’t want to say he played soft, but instead of showing that killer instinct where he commanded his presence be felt, he often was passive to a fault.
Because his main source of scoring came from driving to the paint, when the middle was clogged, he didn’t look comfortable forcing up a shot. Rather, he often passed it out late in the shot clock for a poor outside shot by a teammate. Once he feels his jumper is consistent enough to become a real weapon, that sense of passiveness should subside and Simmons can go about becoming a top offensive option anywhere on the court.
A successful sophomore campaign for Ben Simmons consists of many things, but the most important thing is he can’t become stagnant. He, along with the rest of the team, needs to continue to get better. A playoff appearance last year was not good enough. It is time for the Sixers to take another step forward, and if Simmons wants to prove to be the focal point and cornerstone of the team, he will have to become a more well-rounded offensive player. If last year was any indication of what Simmons is capable of, then there should be no doubt that he will continue to evolve as a player, just as the team does as a whole.
Oh yeah, and maybe a legitimate three-point attempt would be cool too.