The hope among the Brooklyn Nets is palpable.
They need Ben Simmons to get healthy for any number of reasons but it is clear that even they are intrigued by the prospects.
“I look forward to coaching a healthy Ben Simmons,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said on July 7. “That’s exciting. Our team is excited to have him healthy, part of our program, and moving forward. He has an innate ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor…We missed that in the Philly series and looking forward to it.”
Vaughn, appearing during NBA TV’s broadcast of the Nets’ 101-97 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Summer League in Las Vegas opener, was not able to consistently coax that out of Simmons this past season citing difficulty finding the right lineups to maximize him.
“You put a big next to Ben, then you got to figure out what the spacing is around him,” Vaughn said via the team’s official YouTube channel in February. “If you put a playmaker next to him, then you got to figure out what Ben looks like without the basketball. Then if you go small with Ben, then you got to figure out can you rebound enough with him…You see the challenges.”
He also noted that Simmons needed to play with sustained force rather than in short bursts.
“Can he protect the rim for us? Can he guard on the perimeter for us? Can he push the pace? All of those things at a high level,” Vaughn told Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News in December. “Not as if he’s playing 32 minutes, but 22.”
Simmons, 26, averaged 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists this past season, making 42 appearances before getting shut down with back inflammation.
Nets Need a Healthy Ben Simmons
Despite commentary from critics about his progress, Simmons is said to be taking an invigorated approach to his rehabilitation. And, to Vaughn’s point, he is exactly the kind of player Vaughn said they needed after their final game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs.
“For our group going forward…the ability for multiple people to get downhill and get to the paint and create opportunities, that’s a need for us, yes,” Vaughn said via the team on April 22.
Simmons is also the most-decorated player on the roster with three All-Star appearances two All-NBA selections among other accolades. It has been some time since he has played that way but, if he did, it would be a boon for the Nets, even if only to boost his trade value.
Mikal Bridges Calls Out Knicks’ Josh Hart for ‘Tampering’
Simmons’ teammate, Mikal Bridges, has committed to play for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup in August. Bridges will join his former college teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart with whom he won a National Championship and who are currently teammates on the New York Knicks – on the squad.
That fact is much to the delight of Hart who has cheekily tried to recruit Bridges to the Knicks who added another former Wildcat in Donte DiVincenzo in free agency this offseason.
Bridges embraced his role as the top star on the Nets which included the highs of the regular season and the lows additional attention from the defense brought with it in the playoffs. He and Simmons could be an interesting pairing if the latter can indeed get back to form.