When Ben Simmons was traded to the Nets last season it was supposed to be a new start for him. In a lot of ways it is new with new teammates and a new city behind him but he has not been his usual self.
The Ben the league knows is a walking 20 point triple-double. Back in Philadelphia before his meltdown in the playoffs Simmons was one to fear especially when he was in the transition. He could easily grab a defensive rebound go the length of the court and either finish at the rim or pass to the open man. At best Simmons was easily top 20 in the NBA and he was a jumpshot away from top 10.
Since he came back he has been hesitant and doesn’t look sure of himself out there. When he gets the ball he barely looks at the basket. There is times where he is in the paint and he drives right by the basket and passes the ball to someone on the perimeter. In Philly he didn’t do that, if he was touching the paint he was scoring the ball. Now he looks like he is afraid to shoot the ball. Watching him frustrating because he is a 6’10 guard that can virtually do anything except shoot from outside the paint.
This season Simmons is averaging 7.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. All of these are career lows for him and it doesn’t look like there is a change coming any time soon. On the defensive side of things it’s not that much better. He is averaging a career low in steals (1.4) and blocks (0.6). He gets into foul trouble in most of the games he plays. When the season started and he played for the first time in over a year fouling out and starting out slow was expected. Now more than halfway through the season and things are still the same.
If the Nets want to make a deep run in the playoffs Simmons has to come alive and be more aggressive. When he is out on the break in transition he has to look to attack. He cannot be afraid to score and he cannot be afraid to go to the free throw line. Over his career he is 59% from the line but this season he is 44.6%. If he wants to be better from there he cannot be afraid to go to the line. He should also try to shoot more or add a post game. If he does that it will open more for him and the team.
While Durant has been out with an injury Kyrie Irving has stepped up and carried the team. Simmons was one person I was expecting to pick it up as well but he has not. Only twice has he scored 10 or more points. In his last game before he injured his knee he had zero points and seven assists against the Pistons. He has no choice but to pick up his play because the Nets are questioning themselves in trading for him.
He has sat out the last three games, coach Jacque Vaughn said he hopes Simmons will play Saturday when the Nets host the Wizards.