I think we can all say confidently Ben is not a good shooter. Hell, even Ben said it.
Ok now that we got that out the way, let’s have a real talk about this 76ers team and Ben’s importance to it.
One thing that should be clear is Ben is the second most important player on this team. It’s obvious that this team will go only has far as Joel takes them. But in my opinion Ben doesn’t get enough credit for how much he is needed for this team.
Two things I believe to be true
1) Joel embiid is the most important player to this team right now.
2) This team is more equipped to lose Joel for and extended time (a month or so) than it is to lose Ben Simmons for the same amount of time.
This is a tough argument for me to make, because statistically it is just not true. If you followed this team enough, the drop off when Joel is off the court is huge. Especially defensively. I think this year is different. With Horford, KOQ, and someone other than Bolden hopefully the drop off shouldn’t be that bad.
The drop off from Ben to Neto, Burke, or JRich is worse of a drop.
One more thing that makes it hard to realize how important he is to the team is how available he is. Joel, it is easy to see because of how much time he misses. Whether the team limits Joel’s minutes or he misses a game, we as fans have seen this team plenty with him on and off the court to use to compare and contrast the 2.
But for Ben, we have very little info to do so with Ben. He averages 34 minutes a game for his career and 80 games a season. Outside of the broken foot his rookie year, Ben stays on the court so we do not get to see this team without him a lot to compare. Sometimes when a player is as available as Ben is, we begin to see his production as the norm and do not necessarily realize how much of a drop off there would be if he missed a significant amount of time.
Beside his lack of shot, Ben does almost everything else on the court at a very high level. And the Sixers need him to continue to do everything at a high level to succeed. Ben isn’t the shooter and half court player we all want him to be, but his ability to get out and run off the rebound is going to be a key component for the Sixers this season. No one else on the team can do it as good as he does, with the ability to get to the rim or vision to hit the open guy on the break. Neto, burke, or JRich just don’t even come close. And that is not a sleight at those guys, it just says more about Ben’s ability.
I think something that gets lost in the analysis of Ben, because of the lack of shot and the focus on that, is all the good stuff he does. Last playoffs sold me on Ben as an on ball defender. His defense on Kawhi was insane, and Kawhi still got buckets, but Ben made it really hard for him. I don’t know if Leonard was ever quoted saying it, but my eye test showed me Ben made Kawhi’s life more difficult than most players do. Ben is the best on ball wing defender this team has right now, and it will be insanely hard to replace that.
Even with his lack of shot, Ben’s offensive production would be really hard to replace. Last season he averaged 16.9 pts 7.7 assist, and 2.2 offensive rebounds. Basketball-reference.com has his projection at 17.8 ppg, 8.3 assist, and 2.2 offenisve rebounds. that kind of production would take multiple players (out of the ones that back up Ben) to reproduce. While the scoring runs through Joel, the offense runs through Ben.
I think we all, as fans, know that if Ben can ever knock down an open jumper it’s game over. He will be the closest thing to Lebron that we have seen since Lebron came in the league.
Simmons’ ceiling is high, very high. And he isn’t too far from the ceiling as we think. Free throw % and taking and making open shots will catapult him into us talking about him being the best player in the league. In time it will come. Until then, the Sixers have an incredibly skilled young talent, that is more important to the team than I think most fans realize.
Joel Embiid is the most important player to this team right now. But Ben Simmons is a very very close second.