When the Ben Simmons era in Philadelphia came to an end, many felt as if it could be a win-win trade for the Nets and 76ers. While James Harden was an upgrade on paper for Philadelphia, an argument could be made that both he and Simmons complimented their new teams better than they did their former teams. With Harden underperforming, and Ben Simmons never suiting up, the trade deadline’s biggest blockbuster ultimately amounted to very little last season.
Since Brooklyn’s first-round sweep at the hands of Boston, and Philadelphia’s early exit against Miami, developments on each side of the Harden-Simmons trade have taken place. For Philly, Harden took a team-friendly extension that helped them bolster their roster. For Brooklyn, all signs point towards a healthy and motivated Ben Simmons joining their team this season.
What’s changed for Simmons?
On the latest edition of JJ Redick’s podcast, Ben Simmons joined the show to discuss everything from his departure from Philly to his future in Brooklyn. When asked if the Atlanta Hawks series compounded the mental health battles he was already fighting, Simmons said, “I think it was like, you know, I’m already dealing with a lot mentally just in life, as a lot of people do. But it got to a point, after that series, I’m getting – from the people you’re supposed to have the support from, or that comfort from, and I wasn’t getting that either. So it was just a lot. It was a toll on me.”
After confirming that his mental health battles preceded that series, Simmons admitted that the response to that loss put him in an even darker place. Recognizing he needed to get right, Simmons said he finally took the steps towards getting help, which has led him to the better mental state he’s now achieved.
Listening to him speak, even beyond his mental health testimony, there is an evident level of peace with Simmons that supports his statement that he’s in a better place. Being able to revisit his time in Philly, and detail some of his darkest moments, shows a level of contentment that would otherwise be unobtainable in a poor mental state.
“I’m in a great place, and I feel comfortable talking about it now,” Simmons said.
What a recharged Simmons means for Brooklyn
While addressing his mental health has rightfully been a priority for Ben Simmons, the three-time All-Star can now dedicate more focus to helping the Brooklyn Nets on the court. With his mental state receiving immense attention over the last year, his physical state has often gone overlooked. Plagued with a back injury that disallowed for a Nets debut last season, Simmons is now feeling healthy, which makes Brooklyn a dangerous team.
While both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving underperformed in last year’s sweep against Boston, Brooklyn’s roster was undeniably flawed. Without a true reliable center, and arguably even shakier on the wings, Brooklyn was entirely dependent on superstar production from Durant and Irving. When that production fell short, so did the Nets.
One of the most unique players in the NBA, Ben Simmons fills several holes for the Brooklyn Nets. As previously mentioned, two of Brooklyn’s glaring weaknesses last season were at center and on the wings. Packaged into one player, Ben Simmons plugs both of those holes.
With his rebounding and size, Simmons can play in the middle for several different lineup iterations that Brooklyn could construct. His playmaking ability makes him the perfect roll-man for Kevin Durant, especially when teams trap him up top. Allowing Simmons to make plays out of short-rolls, with either Durant or Irving as the ball-handler, will unlock endless possibilities for Brooklyn’s offense.
On the other end of the ball, Ben Simmons is a two-time All-Defense member, and one of the most versatile defenders in basketball. Without an elite defender on the wing last year, Brooklyn had no answer for Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. As Simmons mentioned on Redick’s podcast, his ability to defend the other team’s best player is something that brings incredible value, and is also something the Nets desperately need.
Feeling better physically and mentally, a healthy and motivated Ben Simmons could ascend Brooklyn into the tier they envisioned when signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019.