The truth is Ben Simmons has spent his first few NBA seasons playing out of position. He’s not a point guard; he’s a center.
Former Sixers coach Brett Brown made a point of labeling Simmons a point guard before his first season, but the 25-year-old has the shooting attributes of a traditional big man. He takes most of his shots within 5 feet of the rim, and he can’t score outside the paint.
The 3-time All-Star is a pass-first player with a high basketball IQ who can pick apart the defense on the run. He doesn’t necessarily want to shoot. This isn’t much of a problem in the regular season where defence isn’t prioritised.
The equation changes in the playoffs; the offense becomes stagnant and there isn’t a lot Simmons can do from the perimeter on the offensive end. The defenders just create a wall in the paint, negating his ability to score the basketball.
Check out this lowlight of Ben Simmons being afraid to shoot.
There are a lot of possessions where he brings the ball up the court, gives it to Tobias Harris, and then hangs out on the baseline. The 3-time All-Stars fear of shooting means that he can’t play on the perimeter without the ball in his hands.
There is also a lack of shooting around him which means that he can’t make cuts to the basket either. This results in in a point guard who is passive and indecisive.
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How can Ben Simmons be utilized more effectively?
The obvious solution is to go small with Simmons at the 5. Simmons has all the physical attributes to play at the 5. He’s one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA and can guard 1 through 5 with ease.
Simmons stands tall over both Draymond Green and PJ Tucker, two of the most well-known small centers in the league today. That said, it wouldn’t be an easy transition to change positions midway through his career.
The Former Rookie of the Year could play a role quite similar to Reigning MVP, Nikola Jokic. He could orchestrate the offense from the top of the key.
If he is played at the 4 or 5 and is surrounded by shooters and spacing, he would turn into the game’s most dangerous small-ball center.
The alternative solution would be to learn to shoot. But I don’t have much faith that he would change now. The easier solution is to move him to a position where shooting isn’t as important.
The biggest problem with moving Simmons to the center is that the 76ers already have an MVP caliber center in Joel Embiid.
The 3-time NBA All-Star might never reach his ceiling until he’s playing at center. It just might not happen with the 76ers.