The Portland Trail Blazers have made some great moves so far this off-season. Most notably, acquiring Larry Nance and resigning Norman Powell to an extension is huge. With the plethora of wings this team possesses, a big move is probably on the way. Using a combination of assets for the Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons could pay big dividends for the Blazers moving forward. Simmons is trying to force his way out of Philly and this could be his new home.
A Look at Ben Simmons’ Career So Far
Simmons has played point guard for his four-year career so far, posting averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.7 steals. He has had all the hype of being the next LeBron but hasn’t showed a willingness to grow in certain aspects of his game, particularly shooting. Still, there’s room for him to grow as he’s just 25 years old. He does indeed possess great qualities that would bode well for the Blazers.
Outside of passing, Simmons’ best quality is his defense. He’s undoubtedly one of the best defenders in the world. He has great instincts for staying in front of the opposition, sliding his feet, and using his hands for deflections and steals. He’s able to use his 6’11” frame with a combination of speed and IQ to get stops on players of many different sizes and positions. He had the second highest defensive rating (Rudy Gobert). Simmons’ impact defensively lead him to be a top three finalist and runner-up for the 2021 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award (Gobert).
Despite his shooting woes, Simmons has plenty of skill offensively that makes him still valuable on that end of the floor. He’s an outstanding passer and has great court vision, seeing plays before they materialize. Let’s all have amnesia when it pertains to him passing up a wide open dunk in a close out game against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 playoffs — yikes. Still, He’s a willing passer and a darn good one with his 7.7 career assists per game.
Free throws. When its crunch time, free throws are extremely significant for those can knock them down. Simmons is not one of them. He’s shooting 59.7% for his career and was absent during the 2020-2021 playoffs, notching only 34.2% with opposing teams using the ‘Hack-A-Ben’ method.
Although he is allergic to shooting from distance, Simmons has the ability to get to the rim, finishing at a great 56.4% clip from two-point land for his career and 56% overall. Most of his damage is done in the paint as he’s attempted 11.5/11.6 shots in that area. With shooting only 14.7% from three for his career, he has been hesitant in attempting many with only taking 34 total threes in his career. He practices his threes in the offseason but refuses to consistently take them which creates a lack of rhythm. If he can keep the defense honest with a low-30% three-point shooting, it would do wonders for the team. But even without that, placing him in a different position with more guard play alongside him would alter the trajectory of his career for the better.
Transitioning Simmons from PG to PF (Draymond 2.0?)
Just a player can create for others doesn’t mean he/she has to be a point guard. Simmons has been playing point guard amd doing a solid job in that position, but his deficiencies have hurt his team come playoff time. He’s a stupendous defender, passer, rebounder, and very athletic to get out and run the break. He could very well be a playmaking power forward. The 76ers drafted Markelle Fultz with this experiment in mind, but that never came to fruition due to injuries.
As I stated earlier, Simmons doesn’t have to be a great shooter to have a fulfilling career, but needs to be willing to attempt those shots to keep the defense honest. Let’s take a look at Draymond Green for the Warriors. He’s averaged 8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.0 rebound per game for his career. He’s shot only 43.6% overall and 31.6% from three. He makes his presence known defensively and can facilitate better than most big men in the league. With Simmons being bigger, taller, faster, and more athletic, he could fit a similar role and has the potential to be even more impactful on both ends of the floor. Lillard seemed to be in favor of this deal coming to fruition. He sees the ceiling of Simmons and how it could impact Rip City.
The Blazers are Betting Favorite to Land Simmons
It’ll be interesting to see how this trade unfolds if it does indeed formulate. This could be the first time of parting the Lillard/CJ McCollum combo for salary cap purposes. Even if it was to be a backcourt comprised of Lillard and Powell, this will be the first time Simmons has played with elite guard play to showcase his strengths and versatility. Maybe parting with McCollum gives himself a bigger role in Philly, but also enhances Portland’s defense. A pairing of Simmons with Covington (former 76ers teammate) or Nance (his versatility) would be insane and even more so with Powell’s two-way prowess. Simmons would now be paired with multiple playmakers unlike his stay in Philly.
Lillard is still hungry to obtain a title in Rip City. The Blazers know they need to make a big acquisition before they lose Lillard. A change of scenery for Ben Simmons could display his true potential of what he can be. Switching positions and a new co-star in the guard in position in Lillard could bring out the best in him. Will the Aussie’s game pay dividends? Chauncey Billups has a challenge to keep Lillard around, but to keep the Blazers in contending position and Simmons can be the key piece in accomplishing this goal.