Ben Simmons is Smarter And More Strategic Than You Think

Ben Simmons, the point guard with the missing jumper, called out his teammates for being soft after the Sixers lost to the lowly Hawks at home in Philadelphia. Joel Embiid didn’t play and his absence is akin to LeBron James on the sidelines. Still. It was the Atlanta Hawks whose last second shot by John Collins stunned the Sixers.

Google John Collins and you will find his stats are special. He is a 21 year old power forward averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds and no one has heard about him because he is on the Hawks but he can ball. He spaces the floor, grabs offensive boards, and has a 21.8 PER. He has a better Real Plus-Minus than LaMarcus Aldridge. So, he’s deserving of quieting Philly; he’s good and had a 25 and 9 night.

But, when Ben Simmons called his teammates soft, I couldn’t help but think of the reverse karma in all of this because one of the teammates he called soft was Jimmy Butler who didn’t like it one bit. It was Butler who called Karl-Anthony Towns soft then watched Towns disappear every single night until Butler got his Minnesota walking papers. Now the shoe insult was on the other foot. Butler was the soft one.

Simmons, as the creator who makes plays for others, has a perfect view to interpret who is playing hard and who isn’t. Butler had a great game. 30 points in 40 minutes. Butler is never called soft. First, because no one would dare call him soft, and second Butler plays hard all the time.

Without Embiid on the court, the rebounding, which is what Simmons is probably referring to, fell into Simmons lap. Solo. He had 10 boards. The next highest rebounder among the starters was 4 by Wilson Chandler and Jimmy Butler.

Simmons had 15 assists and 23 points so his triple double was wasted. But, in basketball and in life, perception is everything, Simmons calling out Butler as soft is a boss move, even if it wasn’t true. (It wasn’t).

What Butler likes to do when he gets to a new team is insert himself as alpha everything. He leads the pack and therefore can dole out his rebukes and criticisms. Butler is already frustrated with Simmons inability to hit a jump shot and space the floor which clogs the lane and gives Butler not a lot of space. But now Simmons has hit back.

Butler can be a bully and bullies don’t like to be called out. It was strategic of Simmons to assert himself in a I’m going to call you out even if you’re putting the ball in the hole. Rebound please.

Simmons comments quiet the trade Ben Simmons critics who think the Sixers would do better with a three point shot maker at the point. Simmons playmaking is important to the team but he fails them offensively and when the possessions slow down in the playoffs, Simmons major weakness will be amplified and part of the opponents game plan. Expose Ben Simmons.

How is the Ben Simmons season going compared to his Rookie of the Year season?

Not much difference. He is making the same number of shots (6.7) but this year he refuses to take a three. He hasn’t taken one all year. His free throw % still makes your eyes bleed, 57%. Last year, it was 56%, so he has slightly improved. He is taking more free throws so that is a big plus. His rebound numbers are the same, his scoring is just about the same, 16 points compared to 15 ppg last year.

So is Simmons not developing? His defense is worse.  His PER is nearly identical to last year and he is a worse mid-range shooter. 24% 10-16 feet. On long twos .08%. He makes 29% of his jump shots.

He doesn’t do what he can’t do and that is the sign of a cerebral player. He stays pretty much in his lane. But what he cannot do will continue to haunt the Sixers. Their Big-3 need to be able to make shots on different parts of the floor. With Simmons getting to the line, he has to drain more than 56%. Those are the skill parts of the game. The mental part of the game, pushing teammates, demanding excellence, was on display with his “soft” comment. But Simmons can be considered soft too. Just look at his shooting numbers. Not taking a three? That’s soft.

Is he scared?

Not of Jimmy Butler. But Jimmy Butler isn’t Ben Simmons liability. It’s a 20 foot jumper that will sink Ben Simmons.