Is Ben Simmons Worth All That Money?
Ben Simmons is set to become the highest paid Australian athlete of all time, having been offered a $240.4 million five-year contract extension -– even though he can’t and/or won’t shoot a basketball.
That’s an exaggeration. He’ll shoot from within 10 feet, anywhere around the paint. Outside of that, though, his shot attempt chart is an absolute wasteland. It's like Mad Max out there.
Now, anyone -- multimillionaire pro athlete or otherwise -- is worth whatever the market will pay. That's how capitalism works. And NBA teams are notorious for wildly overpaying free agents. So it's not exactly his fault if his team wants to throw money at him. What's he supposed to do? Say no? He's worth it to them.
Except this is basketball, where you have to shoot the ball into the basket.
And he can't.
He could be Magic Johnson or LeBron James. That's how much potential he has. If he learned how to shoot.
But he won't.
The phenomenon is incredibly weird, somewhat appalling and it will only get more pronounced the more he’s paid because with more money, comes greater expectations. And Philadelphia fans are not known for their patience.
In the first round of the 2018-2019 NBA Playoffs, Jared Dudley of the Brooklyn Nets (full disclosure -- I am a Nets fan) was asked how he and his team would deal with the athletic juggernaut that is Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.
I mean, my God, how WOULD they handle him? Ben Simmons is approximately nine feet tall, extremely strong and astonishingly quick, especially for someone his size. He’s a menace around the basket, a triple-double machine and dunks with entertaining ferocity.
“Ben Simmons is a great player in transition,” Dudley said. “And once you get him into half court, he’s average.”
Dudley, who's now a below average player, was roasted for insulting a superstar. But it was also widely acknowledged that he was right. Ben Simmons is dazzling in transition, running the ball up and down the court, passing or throwing it down. It’s a lot of fun to watch and it made him the number one pick coming out of college, Rookie of the Year in 2018 and an All-Star.
But he is something else in the half court, when the game slows down and the ability to make a jump shot becomes even more valuable than it already is. Players defending Simmons will back WAY off of him. He is always open. Cartoonishly open. Open to the extent that it’s unclear what exactly is happening on the court. You’ll start thinking to yourself, “Did someone call timeout? Is the game over? What sport are we playing?”
Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because he can’t shoot.
His teammates and coach want him to shoot.
But he won’t shoot.
Just watch how LeBron James, who at this point in his career is not interested in playing defense anyway, is able to guard Simmons:
Simmons’ lack of a jumper has made him a liability in clutch situations and at various points in the playoffs, the Sixers turned floorleader duties over to Jimmy Butler and had Simmons get out of the way. This happens all the time to certain kinds of limited players -- but not to max contract superstars.
Of course, by now all of this has been unpacked. The numbers have been crunched. He admits that he's never had to shoot before so he didn't learn that particularly fundamental basketball skill. But he's apparently working on his shot with his brother Liam. And he insists the jumpshot is "very important" (REALLY?).
Look, I am not a sports insider or even someone who knows that much about NBA strategy. And I don't know Ben Simmons' life. He, like a lot of NBA superstars, lives on a different planet from me and I would never presume to tell them what to do or to know what would fix their problems.
But how about practicing some shooting, Ben Simmons?
And whatever this is doesn’t count:
Of course, Simmons is 22 years old and he’s only been in the league for two years, so he can certainly learn to shoot. That is possible. But based on his lack of enthusiasm -- and the fact that he can make an unholy amount of money without doing it -- that’s not looking likely.
And I suppose you could argue that on a team with Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid, all of whom can actually shoot, he doesn’t need to (as some have suggested).
It should also be pointed out that the Sixers came within a few bounces of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and possibly the Finals. And if they win a championship within the next couple of years everyone will change their minds and I'll deny that I ever said any of this (as long as Simmons plays a key role and isn't told to stand in the corner on offense).
But there should still be concerns for his longevity in the league. The NBA has been moving away from longer range two-pointers, the kind that Simmons refuses to take -- and it's RUNNING towards three-pointers, which he definitely doesn't take.
In fact, last February, an attempted three-pointer was practically a media event.
If you watch this compilation of Simmons shooting outside shots, you might understand why...
So what happens when he's over 30 and he can’t fly around the court like he does? What’s he going to do?
Well, he'll probably laugh himself to sleep on his bed of cash in his gold house filled with well-wishing celebrities.
Fine. But what about AFTER that?
He won’t be on an NBA team, unless the game suddenly evolves into the kind of sport where you can just stand there and do absolutely nothing. But that would make it baseball. And if that happens, we'll have bigger problems than Ben Simmons’ lack of a jump shot.
Featured Image: Getty