Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers weigh in on the importance of Ben Simmons and his ability to stay aggressive
Ben Simmons is no stranger to criticism. Whether it’s constructive criticism or destructive criticism is certainly up for debate. One thing that everyone should be in agreement on is Simmons’ need to stay aggressive every time he steps foot on a basketball court.
“Aggressive” has been a keyword for Simmons, who can turn it on one night and seem lost on the court the following night. Simmons has an elite skillset that allows him to get to the paint, create plays, and control the pace of the game. The Ben Simmons we know can dash down the court on a straight-line drive to the basket and find an open shooter on the wing with ease. But what about scoring? After a dominant month of February, Simmons watched his offensive production take a hit in March and continue to bleed over into the month of April.
Last night, we saw the Simmons that everyone wants to see on a nightly basis. He scored 10 points in the game’s first six minutes, making three layups, two free throws, and yes, a 10-foot jumper. Simmons only played 28 minutes in the game and finished with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting. He added three rebounds, three assists, and most importantly, did not turn the ball over. On Friday night against the Pelicans, Simmons gave it away six times.
I get it. You can look at last night’s game and easily see that the OKC Thunder are in full-blown tank mode, however the play of Ben Simmons was encouraging given his recent struggles offensively.
The debate about Simmons is simple and honestly, quite stupid. You have one side saying that Ben Simmons needs to score more and that if he is an “elite player” that he would be able to carry the load while Embiid is not playing. For the record, the Sixers were 7-3 in Embiid’s latest absence. This crowd tweets and posts videos insisting that Ben Simmons is useless due to his shot volume and low scoring numbers. They also seem to ignore the fact that on some nights when they rest of the team is cold (ex. Seth Curry 0-7, zero points vs Pelicans), that the blame still falls on Simmons. Yikes.
The other side, claim they “study film” and have some type of “inside knowledge” about why the haters are wrong and list recycled Simmons stats all over social media claiming they are the experts and everyone else is wrong. These people think they are special because they can properly navigate basketball reference or Stat Muse to find game stats. Remarkable.
Regardless of the debate, there needs to be a common ground. Ben Simmons is a 6’10” point guard and only 24 years old. He’s an All-Star and an All-NBA / All-Defense level of talent. Still, there is plenty of room for him to grow into something bigger and more powerful than he already is today.
Gone are the days of bozo Brett Brown pleading to members of the media to contact Ben’s people and ask him to shoot. Doc Rivers and the rest of the Sixers team this year are taking a new approach. Rivers has been consistent in saying that “scoring is the least of my worries” when it comes to Ben Simmons. He views him as more of a facilitator who puts his teammates in better positions to succeed.
“That’s how he has to be every night. He had a better understanding of the flow of the game, which I didn’t think as a team we understood that last night. Tonight I thought we did. We milked plays; we got the ball to the hot hand. I thought that was great tonight, and Ben was responsible for most of it.”
For a Sixers team that has preached accountability all season long, even the big man himself had some encouraging words for Ben Simmons following last night’s game. Embiid, who scored 27 points to go along with nine rebounds had this to say about Simmons and his ability to be aggressive.
“…First of all, I want him to be aggressive every single play, whether it’s to make plays or whether it’s to look for his shot. He’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to make guys on the other team guard him — like tonight. We saw it. I was really excited when he made those two (jump) shots.”
“He’s starting to be comfortable. He’s getting back to where he was right before the All-Star break, so he’s got to keep on doing it. He’s a playmaker and he wants to be a playmaker. He wants to get everybody involved but at times, you also need to just be aggressive and make the other guys on the other teams guard him.”
In the past when Simmons is at his best, he was driving into the paint and placing some form of pressure on the opposing defense. That’s something that will not always work. A very popular talking about when debating Ben Simmons is how effective he can be in the playoffs when teams will likely fall back into a half-court defense.
There are several reasons why that concern is different this year than in the past. The Sixers have watched Tobias Harris grow into an elite player with closing ability and have Danny Green and Seth Curry at the wings ready to knock down three point shots if the paint is log jammed.
Ben Simmons adding a mid-range jump shot to his offensive repertoire last night attracted the attention of the defense and forced a body to cover him even when he wasn’t attacking the rim at a million mph. Something as simple as a jump shot in the paint completely changes the makeup of the Sixers offense and how defenses need to react to Simmons.
When Simmons is at his best, he’s often driving into the paint and placing some form of pressure on the defense. Rivers has used Simmons in the pick-and-roll and as a screen man throughout the season which has opened up even more additional scoring options. Simmons finding his groove and simply adding two or three mid-range jump shots a game will be key for the Sixers down the stretch and into the playoffs. With both Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid delivering the same message, it’s now up to Ben Simmons to make it happen.
Up Next: Simmons and the Sixers will play the Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.
Mandatory Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer