Ben Simmons: develop him or trade him?

Ben Simmons entered the league under the slogan “a jump shot away from being LeBron.” His athleticism, vision, and aggressiveness in the open court as a 6’11’’ point guard has already granted him all-star status in the NBA, but over the past four years, he hasn’t moved his game out past 12 feet.

It’s not that he can’t find his shooting touch, but rather that he doesn’t possess the confidence to shoot. Take Russell Westbrook for example. Russ knows he can’t find the bottom of the net on a good day; however, he still shoots the ball no matter how much of a drought he is in. In Simmons’ case, he has never shown the wherewithal to say “screw it” and put up shots during games simply because he lacks the confidence to do so. You would think that his trainer would rip off the bandaid quickly and tell him to shoot more in games, yet we still see Simmons too timid to shoot. In my mind, his shooting woes aren’t Philadelphia’s biggest worry though. 

I remember when he was drafted number one overall in 2016, and I remember him being much more aggressive at LSU, especially down low in the post—a place where he should dominate against smaller guards. Throughout the playoffs, Simmons has looked like just another player on the court during half-court sets. He usually handed the ball off to Joel Embiid at the top of the paint and made a lazy cut to clear space out for other players. This submissive habit usually took him out of the play, preventing him from boosting his confidence. That right there is where the problem lies: he needs to be more aggressive and take the ball to the rim. Even though I believe he should develop a reliable jumper at some point down the road, I think for now he can fall back on his trademark athleticism and score at least 15 points a game purely in the paint. So the question is, what should Daryl Morey do with him? Should he put a ton of time and resources into developing Simmons’ mojo, or should he move towards a half-court attack with Embiid as the focal point and trade Simmons? I think he should choose the latter. 

To be fair, recency bias has clouded Simmons’ value as of late. Some of us are forgetting that he averaged around 14 points a game on the best team in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs; we also forget he is the sidekick to a player, Joel Embiid, whose clunky game fits better in a half-court system. In a run and gun, fast pace system, I believe Simmons will flourish because he is built to score and dish out assists at will in the open court. Despite the negative background noise surrounding him right now, I see a run and gun system with a new team benefiting Simmons to the point where he is considered a top-ten player in the league. For both the Sixers and Simmons’ sake, a plane ticket to a fresh atmosphere is a move in the right direction.