The Boston Celtics still do not know who they will be playing in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Based on Sunday’s results, they could finish anywhere from second to fourth in the standings. And in turn, they could play any one of six teams, when you consider the Play-In Tournament has yet to be set.
Those six teams are the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Brooklyn Nets. But if the Celtics were to climb up to the second seed, a matchup with the Nets is feared the most. Brooklyn eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs last season, and with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the roster, they have the star power to compete with anyone.
However, a recent report just made a potential matchup with Brooklyn even more daunting. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, there is growing optimism that former All-Star Ben Simmons could make his return in the first round of the playoffs.
Simmons has yet to appear in a game this season. He was dealt to the Nets by the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline this year in exchange for James Harden. Seth Curry and Andre Drummond were also sent to Brooklyn in that deal.
Simmons’ Career History
After sitting out for the majority of the season due to mental health issues, Simmons got to Brooklyn and immediately ran into problems. It was announced that Simmons had a herniated disc in his back that was keeping him from stepping foot on the court. He received an epidural injection to help relieve the issue, which he has supposedly been dealing with since February of 2020.
At only 25 years old, Simmons has already built up quite the resume. He’s a three-time All-Star, made the All-NBA Third Team in the 2019-20 season, is a two-time All-Defensive player, won Rookie of the Year in 2017-18, and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season.
Simmons holds career averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.7 assists while shooting 56.0 percent from the field. The 6’10 guard is notorious for not shooting threes, having only attempted seven throughout the course of his young career (including playoffs).
During last year’s playoffs, this unwillingness to shoot the ball ended up costing the Sixers in a big way. In what is now an infamous moment, Simmons passed up a wide-open layup in favor of dumping the ball off to Matisse Thybulle. That play contributed to a rough postseason in 2020-21, which included him shooting 34.2 percent from the free-throw line, which is a historical mark.
How Simmons’ Return Could Affect the Celtics
While Simmons’ offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, he can still help the Nets in a big way on the other side of the ball. Simmons has been one of the best defensive players in the NBA for years, and this season, Brooklyn has had it rough on that end of the floor.
Their defensive rating of 112.2 ranks 20th in the NBA and they allow 112.0 points per game, which ranks 19th. Adding someone like Simmons, who can guard all five positions, could give them a much-needed boost on the defensive end.
Plus, Simmons would likely act as their primary point-of-attack defender. As of now, Brooklyn doesn’t have a go-to guy on that end who can guard the opposing team’s best player on a nightly basis. With guys like Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounpmo potentially standing in Brooklyn’s way, Simmons would be a huge help.
All that being said, it will take time for Simmons to get used to things in Brooklyn. His talent on the defensive end will undoubtedly help, but he won’t be a perfect fit right away. So, while Simmons’ return definitely raises the ceiling of the Nets this season, it may not help as much as people would think.