Outside opinions of Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons have skewed toward the negative in recent years with his unceremonious falling out with the Philadelphia 76ers and his injury-riddled career to this point.
His latest health episode saw him make just 42 appearances for the Net before having to be shut down with a back injury.
He’s making good progress which could be trouble for the rest of the NBA.
“Ben Simmons is still the same Ben Simmons we watched dominate in Philly,” said Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green on ‘Podcast P with Paul George’ on July 3. “The only difference between Ben Simmons and Philly and Ben Simmons now is confidence.”
In all fairness, Simmons’ lack of confidence is almost always traced back to Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals in which Simmons’ 76ers were facing the Atlanta Hawks and the 6-foot-10 point guard passed up a layup despite his only resistance being 6-foot-1 Trae Young, giving the ball to an unsuspecting Matisse Thybulle instead.
“In the moment, I would have spun, and I’m assuming Trae [Young is] going to come over quicker,” Simmons told Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer in September 2022. “So I’m thinking he’s gonna come full-blown, and I see Matisse [Thybulle] going…so I’m thinking, ‘OK, quick pass, he’s gonna flush it,’ not knowing how much space there was.”
Jacque Vaughn Tried Everything With Ben Simmons
Simmons averaged 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists this past season, a far cry from his production as a three-time All-Star. And, given the lack of force with which Simmons played even when healthy, he did not look like his two-time All-Defensive self, either.
“You put a big next to Ben, then you got to figure out what the spacing is around him,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said via the team in February. “Then 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?”
Simmons has never been a threat to shoot the ball but his confidence showed in the way he attacked the rim and guarded his assignment; often the other team’s best player.
He still flashed that some this season.
But Simmons, who did not play after the All-Star break, started his descent well before that, averaging 5.0 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.3 rebounds after Kevin Durant got injured on January 8 against the Miami Heat.
Before that, he averaged 7.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game – still no great shakes but better than he finished.
“I feel bad for people that lose their confidence in their game because you’re still the same player,” Green continued. “You’re the same person that was going out there and would get 15 assists before someone blinked and yet you don’t feel that you can do that no more because your confidence is gone.”
Green can sympathize with what Simmons is going through.
Draymond Green Can Relate to Ben Simmons’ Situation
“I feel bad for people who lose confidence in their game,” Green said. “I never lost confidence in my game. So I’ve still been able to have a really good career, and be successful, and do the things that I’ve done. But I feel bad. I know how it feels to lose confidence because I lost confidence in my shot.”
Green, 33, was never a great shooter, though he did knock down 38.8% of his 3.2 looks in 2015-16 and shot 33.4% from 2013-14 through 2017-18.
But, over the last five seasons, he’s shot just 28.6% from outside.
“The reason you couldn’t tell that I lost confidence in my shot is because I was doing everything else so well. And so it’s like if he’s shoot and he make it, cool. But, if he don’t, look at all the things that he’s doing right.”
Green has trended in the right direction over the last two seasons, knocking down 30.3% of his long-distance looks including 30.5% this past season. And, while Simmons has never had an outside shooting profile to get back to, the resurgence from Green – who is seven years older than Simmons – can still be a guiding light for his former fellow Klutch Sports client.
Simmons is heading into the fourth year of a five-year, $177.2 million contract.