Jalen Rose Blasts Sixers’ Player Development: ‘Philadelphia Made a Mistake’

Ben Simmons

Getty Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Philadelphia 76ers thought they were getting their point guard of the future in Ben Simmons. But five years and a non-existent jumper later saw Simmons’ time in Philadelphia come to an abrupt end. 

Ahead of last season’s trade deadline, the Sixers jettisoned Simmons to Brooklyn in exchange for James Harden. The move was hailed as a win-win for both sides; the two teams offloaded disgruntled stars who projected to fit in well with their new environments.  

At least, that’s what both sides expected. 

Instead, Harden started red hot in Philadelphia but struggled to put together consistent performances down the stretch. 

Simmons, meanwhile, failed to have any impact for the Nets. The defensive stalwart was sidelined with a back injury that kept him out for the duration of the season. In fact, the last time teams got a chance to see Simmons, he was passing up an easy dunk for a pass to Matisse Thybulle in a Game Seven loss to the Atlanta Hawks on June 20, 2021. 

Simmons never evolved into that point guard of the future for Philadelphia. And while some, like Charles Barkley, believe Simmons deserves “most of the blame” for his Philadelphia flameout, the feeling isn’t universal. 

Jalen Rose, a prominent player-turned-broadcaster, pinned the blame on the Sixers. 

Rose Sounds off on the Sixers’ Use of Ben Simmons

According to Rose, the Sixers didn’t properly utilize Simmons while he was still in Philadelphia. 

“Philadelphia,” explained Rose last week on ESPN’s NBA Today, “made a mistake in developing Ben Simmons as a point guard and here’s why. When you’re not attempting shots outside of the paint, it’s hard to have you at the top of the floor. So now that they have KD (Kevin Durant), he’s going to play quality minutes at the 4.”

In hindsight, Rose is spot in. Simmons’ game isn’t multi-dimensional enough to be a team’s first option at point guard. His playmaking (7.7 assists per game over his career) is undisputed. But his career shot chart more closely resembles Dwight Howard’s than Chris Paul’s. 

And it wasn’t just the Sixers that wanted Simmons to be a floor general; the feeling was mutual.

After the Sixers drafted guard Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick in 2017, Simmons reiterated to reporters that he was “a starting point guard.” 

Rose: Simmons will ‘Fit Right In’ With Superstar Nets Teammates

Rose went further than simply roasting the Sixers’ use of Simmons. He went on to heap significant expectations on the three-time All-Star. 

“Watch Ben Simmons be like on the baseline playing like a small ball 5,” Rose elaborated, “And in that case, he’s gonna have an opportunity to be a productive player. He’s not going to have to worry about shooting the ball. He’s not going to have to worry about being a big time scorer. He can be a defender, a playmaker, and a teammate and I think you’ll fit right in with Kyrie and KD.”

If Rose is right, then Simmons might not need to add a jumper of any kind to his game. If the Nets retain Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this offseason, the Nets will have no shortage of scoring. That’s doubly true if guard Seth Curry (43.9% career from three) remains healthy. 

In that case, Simmons could thrive as the Nets’ primary defensive stopper while providing some secondary playmaking behind Irving. 

Can Simmons stand the pressure of a return to Philadelphia? Or a deep postseason run where teams will inevitably hack him and his 7.7 assists free throw rate? And will the Nets hang on to Irving and Durant, despite the latter re-upping his demand for a trade two weeks ago?

That remains to be seen.  

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