For all the attention Ben Simmons paid to his reluctance to throw jumpers during his departure from the Philadelphia 76ers, in retrospect, that concern was a little overblown in terms of fantasy basketball. After all, in four seasons with the Sixers, Simmons averaged 15.9 points per game on 11.6 points per game.
His jumper was always suspicious: in those years, he made only 14.7% of his three-point attempts, but he was ready to use his size and athleticism to attack and finish in the paint.
In fact, his ability to threaten the defense with a rebound as a scorer made his passes more effective because he would draw in the defense and could create open eyes for others. Simmons led the NBA in assists that resulted in him hitting 3-pointers in two different seasons as a result of this phenomenon.
What, then, are we to do with Simmons’ shooting chart since he joined the Brooklyn Nets this season? In his first three games, Simmons is only averaging 5.7 points per game on a measly 4.3 FGA.
There are some caveats that should at least be mentioned. First, he only averages 28 mpg because he fouled in two of those three games.
Understandably, he could be rusty after sitting out a full season before returning to a brand new lineup with two ultra-prime scorers.
Simmons’ expected role since being traded to the Nets has been to be an offensive middleman who put Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in places they enjoyed scoring from, devoting much of their energy to being elite. anchor of defense.
This is all understandable, but… 4.3 shots per game? In the words of King George in the play “Hamilton”: “I did not know that a man could do this.” But, reading on the coffee grounds of several public interviews that Simmons has given over the past months, I think we have to admit that he may intentionally shoot so sparingly.
Simmons seems to be aware of the criticism he received after leaving the 76ers. How could he not? He seems to be leaning towards it too. Doubling down on the idea that he could be a great player without shooting, that he could essentially be the new version of Draymond Green who helped the Golden State Warriors early in their dynasty.
While there may at first glance be some similarities in the situation – a power forward and a defensive anchor, playing with two other elite shooters (one of which could be Kevin Durant) – even Draymond has scored significantly more than Simmons this season. .
In four seasons from 2014-15 to 2017-18 in which the Warriors won three championships, Green averaged 11.8 points per game at 9.3 FGA, more than double that of Simmons. In addition, Green shot willingly from three-point range, scoring 1.2 3 points on 33.4 3 points. Not the best shooter, but at least a real threat that will make the defense pay off if it falls off him.
And, ultimately, this last part is the most dangerous if Simmons really plans on trying to play without shooting at all. He must at least threaten the defense with his goal; otherwise why would the opposing defense react to it at all? Why would they ever sag on him, creating gaps and corners that create open bridges for teammates?
In three games, Simmons still averaged 7.0 assists, not far below his career average of 7.7 assists, but that’s with the defense still reacting to him the way they always have. Will it continue if he continues to average 10 fewer points (5.7 vs. 15.9 in Philadelphia), seven fewer shots per game? In the end, the opposing coaches will react accordingly and start playing with him exclusively on the transfer.
That’s why, more than any other reason, I expect this experiment with Simmons the non-shooter can’t last that long in its current form. Simmons is a proud player and his teammates seem to be supportive of him, helping him prove that he can be a strong player by doing it his way.
But Nets head coach Steve Nash was an MVP-level point guard and general in his playing days. He understands what it takes to play in this position at a high level and he has skillfully used the threat of a goal as a means to create an attractive appearance for teammates.
Simmons can score. He can even score in batches without even having or trying to use any jump shot. During his final season with the 76ers, from the last game in January to the last game in February, Simmons averaged 21.0 points per game on 13.1 points per game. During that time, he scored 42 points in Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert’s Jazz game, shooting 15 of 26 from the field.
On a much smaller stage, it was a performance reminiscent of another big point guard who didn’t have a lot of jumpers when he entered the league – Magic Johnson in his famous 1980 Finals performance without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In fact, the Magic template is what many hoped/believed Simmons would evolve into in his career. Judging by his early return to Brooklyn, this is not the path Simmons is currently taking in his career with the Nets.
Where does that leave him? He doesn’t try to be Magic anymore, but even Draymond didn’t try to play without shooting or attacking. Perhaps the best example of how Simmons could end up as a scorer this season is the version of Rajon Rondo, who played on the first teams of the Big Three Boston Celtics from 2007-08 to 2008-09.
During those two seasons, while teaming with other Hall of Famer scoring threats, Rondo averaged 11.3 points per game at 9.4 FGA but came as close to no deep threat as he did 0.1 3PG at 29 .9% 3P%. Rondo didn’t even pretend to have a jumper, but he felt the defense and, when possible, finished in the paint.
Simmons is a good eight inches taller than Rondo and a far more established scorer than Rondo at that stage in his career. Even if the Nets don’t force him to shoot, at some point they’ll need him to at least remain a real enough threat to score a goal so that opposing teams can’t completely fool him.
It is unlikely that he will average less than five field goals per season. He can average single or low double digits on seven to eight shots per game, but he needs to do at least that to do his job effectively as a setter on a team with two top scorers like K.D. Kyrie.
Aside from scoring, Simmons’ other stats should eventually come to their averages. He only has one interception and two blocked shots in his first three games, but I chalk it up to timing. He is still 6ft 10in and is an elite athlete with great defensive instincts…interceptions and blocks will come.
He will always be able to break the boards and as long as the opposing teams retain even a shred of respect for his ability to threaten them while dribbling, his passes should also remain.
If he becomes a high triple-single, averaging 8-9 points per game, 7-8 assists, 7-8 rebounds, 1.5-2 steals and almost 1 block, Simmons will still be worthy of a start in most formats. fantasy basketball. If instead he continued to shoot four times a game, it would also affect his passing and the game in general, because at some point Nash would be forced to play him for more than a limited number of minutes.
It would be a disaster for the Nets’ aspirations, as well as Simmons’ fantasy, so it’s unlikely to come to that. But given the way the last 18 months of Simmons’ career have played out, that cannot be ruled out.
For now, Simmons remains in the top 75 of our fantasy basketball points rankings, but at this level of uncertainty, if you can trade Simmons for a similar level of value, it might be wise to make the move.