Ben Simmons has taken a large step towards restoring his NBA value but just when you thought he was getting back on track, another injury has stalled his redemption season. The Australian 27-year-old has been sidelined for Brooklyn’s last two matches due to a hip injury he suffered in an innocuous drive to the hoop against Milwaukee earlier this week. Six games into what he’s hoping will be his first full season on the court since 2018-19, there are signs of life for a career which looked like it was going to come to a premature end after the bizarre Philadelphia drama and his ongoing injury and mental health issues last season. And while he’s defending like a demon again, rebounding strongly and setting up teammates with passes, his own offensive output is again borderline negligible.
All those social media posts that virtually flooded feeds in the off-season of Simmons taking jump shots in practice have yet again failed to materialize on the NBA floor. He’s taken one shot that wasn’t in the paint in his 36 field goal attempts, a miss which was only just outside the area too. And he is only hitting 54% of shots, which is not particularly when all you are doing is dunks and lay-ups – 30 of his shot attempts have been at the rim. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn is showing faith in Simmons, giving him a tick under 32 minutes per game – whether that’s a bid to rehabilitate his trade value or he genuinely sees him as worthy of long-term investment remains to be seen. Simmons averaged between 14 and 17 points each season in his four prime seasons with the 76ers, taking 10-12 shots. And the elephant in the room is again his free throw shooting which is a sorrowful one from four. He’s still not putting himself in a position to be fouled, usually driving inside when there’s little in the way of defense. Simmons has become a nearly player – someone who could be great but is being held back by this major flaw. And that will cost him tens of millions of dollars.
More Basketball Basketball The five-year $US177 million deal he signed with Philadelphia is due to expire at the end of next season. Over the course of the rest of this decade, the NBA salary cap is projected to skyrocket to nearly double its current figure of $136m to around $240m. There’s going to be plenty of cash to splash for high-profile free agents in the next few years. If Simmons can get back to the modest 15-point totals he was putting up as a Sixer and maintain his elite defensive, rebounding and passing skills, he could sign another huge deal when his current contract runs out. But that’s a big if. If he continues on this current trajectory, he will be valued as a handy, perhaps even high-level role player, but not as a star. And that will mean the difference between earning possibly around $20m annually or double that amount. At least he’s got some value now – there was a real fear last season that he could be out of the league by the end of this current contract such was his spiraling form. When he was at Philadelphia there were legitimate debates about whether the franchise should structure its roster around his unique skill set or that of center Joel Embiid. Sixers management made the right choice in going with Embiid, who was MVP last season, and has propelled his team to a strong start this season despite giving James Harden away with not much in return as yet from the trade picks heavy deal.
No team will take a chance on Simmons in that way again – surrounding him with four shooters who can take advantage of his passing, because quite frankly he’s become way too unreliable on and off the court in recent seasons. Brooklyn (4-5) are in a state of flux with their roster after the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades last season. The likes of Cameron Johnson, Cam Thomas, Nic Claxton, Lonnie Walker, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Spencer Dinwiddie are reliable rotation pieces but could be trade bait along with Simmons if the right move comes up. This latest injury does not seem too much of a concern but you can’t rule anything out when it comes to a Simmons prognosis. “He’ll continue to receive treatment. We’re just not in the place where all parties around feel comfortable with him playing at the levels that he’s been playing at,” Vaughn said after the loss to Boston on Saturday. “So we’ll continue to be day-to-day with this thing.” And for Boomers fans wondering whether this spike in Simmons’ career could lead to him suiting up at next year’s Olympics, remember that he’s been promising to wear the green and gold pretty much on an annual basis since his last match for Australia. And that was in 2013. Don’t hold your breath.