Ben Simmons Was Never Going To Be A Savior

The longest-running lie about Ben Simmons was his exceptionalism. Just because he had great size and freakish athleticism, and could do things with the ball, it was assumed he was some variation of LeBron James. On draft night 2016, Simmons was represented by Rich Paul and despite glaring weaknesses, he was the number one pick. But. Simmons never exhibited competitive willfulness. He couldn’t save a group of teenagers at LSU so why would anyone think that playing with men was going to change what we saw of him in college? Ben Simmons was the #1 pick but his college team, the LSU Tigers, couldn’t even qualify for the NCAA tournament. They had a losing record, a red flag for Simmons future ability to impact winning at an elite level.

The scouts at Draft Express summed it up this way:

“There’s little question that Simmons was unfairly labeled as a generational talent going into his freshman season by uninformed voices in the media. He could still develop into a unique mismatch in the NBA, particularly if he shows a willingness and openness to address his flaws.”

There it was. During his draft evaluation, the word flaw was in the same sentence as Ben Simmons. Red flag #2.

Ben Simmons was the first number one draft pick to attend college and not qualify for the NCAA tournament. Simmons inability to get teammates around him to rise to the occasion in a weak SEC conference said something about his leadership ability and competitive will and ability to make shots. Yes, he got his. 19 and 11. But he lost to College of Charleston too. He frequently played as if LSU was a dress rehearsal for his #1 pick and NBA career. Frankly, he was arrogant about it.

If Simmons cares so little about winning crucial college road games at Tennessee or Kentucky that could have delivered LSU to the NCAA tournament, how much will he consistently care about competing over a far more physically and mentally draining 82-game pro season?” (Draft Express)

In college, Simmons was often lazy on defense, didn’t play hard all the time, and could not shoot farther than my grandmother. His highlights were extraordinarily impressive for a college kid but he’s a man now and the excuses are gone. The reaction to his playoff shot attempts has gone viral, from Shaq to Magic Jackson to disgruntled Philly fan. Simmons has never been a maniacal competitor and at times has been proud of it. But now Paris is burning and Simmons can’t escape the flames, burns, damage. A plethora of voices want him gone from Philly and his not playing in the Olympics for Australia to work on his “skills” isn’t appeasing anyone either.

Lefties Shot Attempts (Avg/per year) Percentage of Shots, Layups (1st 4 Years) Percentage of Shots, Jumpshots (1st 4 Years) Mid-Range% (10-16 feet) 3-Point% Playoff Shot Attempts (34 games)
Lamar Odom (1999-2013) 742.35 23.3% 61.2% 34.6% 31.2% 472
Ben Simmons (2017-   ) 797.0 52.8% 24.5% 29.4% 14.7% 336

Shouldn’t he have worked on his “skills” after the Sixers were bounced out the bubble? We like to blame all the negative things that have happened this season on the quick start to the season but that wasn’t Ben Simmons problem since he had 131 days to improve. What was Simmons doing?

But first his special talent(s): He’s a premier passer with excellent court vision. He plays in the post. He’s hyperathletic in a Blake Griffin kind of way. He is an open-court player that excels at turning defense to offense, ala LeBron James, get the rebound and flat out go. He is a quality rebounder with great instincts for the ball.

Now the rest: he can’t score in the half-court. He approaches the game as if he knows he’s the most talented person on the court and is bored by it. It has been a rude NBA awakening. His wingspan is not particularly impressive at seven feet. He’s an average pick-and-roll player, and put a small athletic wing on him and he struggles.

He doesn’t take on contact like you would think, considering his size. And he is passive in a Lonzo Ball kind of way. He doesn’t shoot threes so he doesn’t stretch the floor. He fits with a team, if traded, that has a lot of good outside shooters, not one that needs him to create space for them. But that’s not Simmons most glaring problem, offensive stats. It’s that he won’t take shots. He refuses to shoot, to help his team. He goes AWOL in games.

The biggest red flag about Simmons game is desire. He plays scared but is paid like an elite shotmaker. Team Simmons floats out the theory that he is shooting with his wrong hand but that’s an excuse. There have been great lefties at his point forward position like Lamar Odom. It’s the attempts, not the makes. It the lack of want-to. Ben Simmons cheats the game.

In college, Simmons was accused by many of being a stat-padding freak. Several teammates on the Australian national team weren’t very complimentary of him either. But he isn’t Jahil Okafor, a lottery burst.  Nor is he Lamar Odom.

This is the biggest summer of his career. Philly cannot trade him right now because his value has plummeted. He needs a shooting coach and a shrink to treat anxiety, fear, reluctance, and whatever else is swimming in his head. If you’re counting, it makes two Philly players, two number one picks whose college teams didn’t make the tournament and who have struggled with the mental part of the game. Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons.

The Process gets an F.