Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons’ aches and pains after 16 months on the sidelines have been a hot topic of conversation early this season — especially in the American media.
Simmons struggled on both ends of the floor and was passive offensively and looked like a shell of his former All-Star self.
In just four games, Simmons scored 21 points. By comparison, other players have already scored 21 points in a single game 191 times, including 29 instances of players scoring 21 points in a half and four instances of players scoring 21 points in a quarter.
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While he’s still averaging 7.5 assists per contest as Brooklyn’s primary ball handler, he’s still well below his usual output, averaging 15.8 points for his career until this season.
And with the Nets going 1-3 this season with the league’s 22nd-best offensive rating (110.6) despite Simmons forming a big three with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Australian’s game in attack was very high. is more closely scrutinized.
“We understand that now he lacks confidence and aggressiveness. OK, we’re going to be patient with him as he tries to find a way through it,” ESPN analyst Tim Legler said.
“The problem is if that’s your primary ball handler and you don’t have a threat on the initial snap up top and everybody on the defense knows that, to me that’s just wasted time.
“As long as they keep insisting that’s your point guard, they’re going to keep talking about it. Because it’s not about knocking Ben Simmons or picking on Ben Simmons. It’s just that it’s not how the position is usually played in the NBA — it’s usually someone who’s going to put pressure on you defensively.
“It doesn’t mean he has to do 10 to 15 shots a night – that’s not his business. But you can at least get involved early to pressure defenses with his length, speed and passing ability, as he did in his best performances in Philly. He is so far from it.’
After The Nets lost to Milwaukee 110-99 on Thursday (all times AEDT), Irving fiercely defended Simmons and urged patience, saying: “He hasn’t played in two years. Give him a chance.”
However, former NBA player Vince Carter said that Simmons doesn’t even necessarily need to score, but rather get into better offensive positions to open up the game.
Simmons was fouled in the Nets loss | 01:16
“Every now and then you need Ben Simmons to eat up that space, when a big is going to sit so big in the paint and they’re going to sit so deep with (other) bigs, now you’ve got two (opposing) bigs in the paint,” Carter said on ESPN.
“Eat up space, be aggressive. If he eats up some of that space, now you have to respect the NBA’s reigning player at some point.
“Now that’s how guys get easy baskets and he doesn’t have to shoot. Or sometimes, if you’re aggressive, you make your way to an easy shot and you don’t have to worry about the thought of making a jump shot.
“In those ways, he can get his confidence back by being aggressive and attacking the point, sometimes thinking I’m going to get fouled, or I’m going to play the bully boy, or I’m going to create an open shot for some of the guys on my team.”
SI’s Rohan Nadkarni questioned whether Nets coach Steve Nash needs to experiment with Simmons in different lineups with more shots, given that the combination of Simmons and center Nick Claxton has a minus-18.7 net rating, while Simmons and big backup Day ‘Ron Sharp has a minus-38.6 net rating.
Kyrie howls at Simmons for not shooting | 00:32
“It’s not hard to see why these couples don’t work out. The distance between the Nets is shorter than a pair of Thanksgiving jeans when Simmons shares the court with another non-shooter, creating obstacles even too difficult for the half-court maestro of Durant and Irving to overcome.” – wrote Nadkari.
“It’s amazing to see Nash play Simmons with someone else who doesn’t shoot as often as he does. Simmons has played 117 minutes this season, 102 of which have come next to either Claxton or Sharpe. That means he’s only played 15 years as a lone non-shooter/big/center, and probably deserves longer consideration in that scenario.”
It came after Simmons took several offensive positions but missed open shots, including Irving yelling, “Shoot it, Ben!” during the game against the Bucks.
ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst said scouts who have watched Simmons closely this season believe he’s not aggressive enough in that he’s “afraid to be fouled” — not necessarily miss.
Simmons has struggled with the charity for a long time in his career, where he has walked at a 59.6 percent clip.
“You look at Kyrie telling him to shoot, he was in a position where he was very likely to be fouled,” Windhorst said.
“The other thing that worries scouts who have watched Ben Simmons play is his reaction to being fouled. They suggest that at times he looks almost as if he is relieved to be out of the game.
“I can understand why his teammates want to protect him, but what stands out to me is the big problem for the Nets. Durant, Irving and Simmons have played a combined 77 minutes this season. They were outscored by 30 points in those 77 minutes.”
“That’s their big three, and that’s really alarming on top of what Simmons is doing individually.”
Meanwhile, former NBA champion Kendrick Perkins was less sympathetic to Simmons after a trade showdown with the Sixers last season that saw him sit out the campaign.
“Kyrie said to be patient with him — Kyrie and the Brooklyn Nets can be patient with Ben Simmons,” Perkins told ESPN.
“But why should we, the fans and the media, have patience with a guy who was traded for the No. 1 overall pick, a guy who decided to leave his team last season, a guy who at one point wanted to give Philly a choice between him and ( Joel) Embiid, who will be the franchise.
“I’m not going to keep beating the drum about Ben Simmons’ offense — at this point he’s shown us who he is and that’s who he is — I don’t think there’s any going back from that.
“He won’t look at the basket, he’ll forget to shoot the basketball and there were a few times he set a screen and could drive to the basket, but he was afraid of getting the ball to the end for a layup.”
Soft call = Simmons is OUT, Nash blows the cover! | 01:16
It’s the other end of the floor where the Nets have had even more trouble, with the second-worst defensive rating in the league (119.8).
Simmons — a two-time first-team all-defensive selection and one of the league’s most versatile stoppers — hasn’t been assertive defensively either, including 18 fouls in four games and fouling out in two of them.
And so Perkins urged Simmons to be more aggressive defensively as well, pointing out that Brooklyn had no answers for Giannis Antetokounmpo during his monster 43-point performance Thursday.
“Let’s talk about the defensive side of things. Giannis was imposing his will, the old-school dad ball on the low block — I haven’t seen that many steps drop since Shaquille O’Neal, he said.
“Ben Simmons is 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, I didn’t see him come in and try to check him. Forget the offensive end, make an impact on the defensive end.
“They didn’t trade James Harden to make Ben Simmons a below-average player or an average player. They brought him to be an All-Defensive type of player and an All-Star caliber player.”