Ben Simmons provides a world of possibilities for the Rockets
The conventional wisdom is that the Sixers will flip Ben Simmons for James Harden. The Sixers have Joel Embiid at center, who is a more natural fit next to Harden at the guard position.
The pairing would give the Sixers the best inside-out combination since LeBron James and Anthony Davis and Houston would get their point-forward of the future. However, Simmons is not inferior to Embiid he is just a different type of player.
One of the first things that stands out about Simmons is how unique a player he is. He is an elite defender at every position, can get to the rim at will, can lead a fast break, and is a fantastic shot creator. In many ways, he is the next evolution of what Draymond Green was for the Golden State Warriors dynasty.
Much has been made of Simmons’ unwillingness to attempt 3-pointers but those concerns are asinine. If Simmons can’t hit 3-pointers he shouldn’t take them because hitting 25-percent of your threes doesn’t suddenly make you a floor spacer.
The perceived problem that Simmons has, not taking threes because he’s bad at them, would be a perceived strength for the Rockets’ recent departure, Russell Westbrook. Ben Simmons is never going to be a good 3-point shooter, which means he shouldn’t take them, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an elite offensive player.
Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t a reliable 3-point shooter which means every attempt of his from beyond the arc is a win for the opposing defense. His disinterest in attempting 3-pointers makes for an interesting talking point but not all players have every trick in the bag.
Kobe Bryant was a career 32.9-percent 3-point shooter and Michael Jordan only hit 32.-percent of his. Ben Simmons can survive not taking threes because a missed 3-pointer is worth the same as any other missed shot.
While the lack of a credible 3-point shot has been a death sentence for many lesser players, it has hardly hindered Simmons’ ability to create shots for himself and others. The reality is, Simmons has been a plus offensive player from the perimeter with a shot chart that looks like a center’s.
Teams need to view Simmons for what he truly is, he is a more dynamic Nikola Jokic who has traded shooting touch for otherworldly defense. He is a center capable of playing point guard and a point guard capable of playing center.
Building a team around Ben Simmons offers a coach and front office a tremendous amount of flexibility. As long as there are a few floor spacers on the court around him, Simmons can fill literally any role on defense and can run the offense.
He is elite at getting to the rim, as 63.8-percent of his shots came from three feet or closer to the basket last season, and he’s clinical when he gets there, hitting 71.3-percent of those shots. Ben Simmons hunts the shots he’s good at hitting, which is a plus about his game, not a negative.
While scoring is the most coveted skill, great passers have the ability to make everyone around them a better scorer. Simmons passing has long been his calling card on offense and in an expanded offensive role he could see significant improvement in this area.
Simmons finished the season tied for 18th in assist-percentage at 33.8-percent, a fraction beneath the 34-percent mark that Chris Paul posted. What makes this all the more impressive is that Simmons was able to accomplish this while posting a usage rate of 20.9-percent.
The only players who were able to post a higher assist-percentage combined with a lower-usage rate than Simmons were Ricky Rubio and Elfrid Payton. The two are pass-first point guards who posted true-shooting percentages well below Simmons’ 60.2-percent mark.
The Rockets know Simmons’ strengths and limitations and they already have a perfectly constructed roster to get the best out of him right away. If micro ball is ever going to work then the player you want to build it around is Ben Simmons.
He is a perimeter player with the shot chart of a center but who can actually play center on defense. He allows for a team to play a micro ball style on offense without sacrificing size, strength, and length on the defensive end.
A pick and roll game built around him and Christian Wood would be unstoppable and he’ll take the pressure off of John Wall as he eases back from an Achilles injury. A starting lineup that features Simmons, Wall, Wood, P.J. Tucker, and Danuel House would be able to run teams off the court without paying a price on the defensive end.
The Rockets should want to get a deal done with Philadelphia so they can secure their point-guard-forward-center of the future. It’s easily forgotten but Simmons has yet to turn 25, which means the franchise would be set up to contend through the 2020s.
Next: Joel Embiid