There are many similarities between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons.
Both are extremely athletic, versatile wings with incredible length and defensive prowess. They are point forwards on elite teams in the Eastern Conference. They also once upon a time shared a common weakness — shooting.
While Giannis has transformed himself into a respectable jump shooter over the past three seasons, Simmons has been reluctant to do the same. The question isn’t whether or not he is able to improve that part of his game. The real question is why he has neglected to work on it.
Going back to his one season at LSU, Simmons had the makeup of many star college basketball players. The potential was clearly there, but there were some flaws that were very apparent. Clearly, his biggest area of concern was his shooting, but that is something that many players have vastly improved upon once they entered the league. Some prime examples would include players like Jason Kidd, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Blake Griffin.
During his actual rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Dan Dakich had a former college assistant coach on his radio show in Indianapolis that offered up a few noteworthy comments on the Aussie superstar’s time at LSU. According to the assistant, Simmons was firmly against the idea of working on his jump shot. He refused to spend time on it and felt as though he didn’t need to.
As one would imagine, that opened up a lot of eyes around the league. How is someone who is this naturally gifted opposed to the idea of working to improve his overall game? Especially a guy that was taken with the first overall pick?
Giannis went from a one-dimensional player to an MVP in just a few years. Simmons has the potential to follow in those same footsteps, but refuses to go down that path.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown has addressed Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot more this season, but it has been more of a passive, comical approach. While he clearly understands the 23-year-old’s value to the team and the role that he must play, how would it impede what they are trying to accomplish now? Wouldn’t they be in a better position to win a championship if their starting point guard had a respectable jump shot?
A player often compared to Simmons is Draymond Green. Both have a similar playing style as a facilitator on offense and an excellent overall defender. The last time Green took less than three treys per game was the 2013-14 season. His percentage has hovered around 30 percent, but he’s taking them. Some teams elect to leave him open and let him shoot. Most of the time it works, but he has also burned them many times.
Giannis, on the other hand, is shooting 32 percent from deep on 5.2 attempts per game. Those numbers don’t look like much on paper, but it is causing all sorts of problems for opposing defenses. Instead of being able to sag off and scheme against him, they now have to respect his jumper. That is one more thing they have to worry about when defending him, and it opens up the interior of their defense even more.
This same type of defensive treatment happened to Ricky Rubio and Rajon Rondo early in their careers. Rubio has gotten his career three-point percentage up above 32 percent and Rondo has shot 36 percent from deep in his last two seasons. If Simmons is even a very small threat to shoot in the half-court offense, it will open up things even more for the Sixers.
The most notable difference between Giannis and Simmons lies within. It is how they are wired, between the ears. After claiming the MVP and leading his team to 60 wins as the top seed in the East, the Greek Freak demanded more of himself. He has shown a desire and a need to improve. His never-satisfied mentality is the reason why he is arguably the best player in the game today. That is what separates these two players.
Simmons has never shown a desire or willingness to even address his lack of shooting. James Harden takes as many three-pointers per game as he has taken in his entire career. Again, the man doesn’t have to make them, but if he can at least knock down a few, it will change the way defenses game plan against him.
Simmons even struggles with the easiest part of the game of basketball — free-throw shooting. It is odd how often he lobbies for a foul call to get to the charity stripe. He is a career 58 percent free-throw shooter and only gets to the line four to five times per game. That number is down from last year, which correlates to his scoring average dipping. As talented and impactful as he is, having him on the floor in crunch time situations can be detrimental to the Sixers.
Right now, Simmons is one of the best defenders in the league. He leads the league in steals and is near the top of the leaderboard in deflections. He ranks fourth in assists, but Philly currently ranks 16th in offense and 17th in pace. Those numbers should spike with Embiid sidelined for at least the next couple of weeks.
The vision, passing ability and aggressive approach in attacking the rim of Simmons have been a major asset for the Sixers. The reason why their transition offense is one of the best in the league is that he has the ball in those situations. He can even finish the break himself, given he is close enough to the basket. He has only taken 17 total shots outside of the paint this season, making just six of them.
That being said, their half-court offense is atrocious. There is no spacing for Joel Embiid to operate. Simmons is either camping out under the basket, and/or they simply do not have enough shooters surrounding those two to stretch the defense. This is a major problem to have, especially come the postseason.
A lot has been made of Embiid’s time spent outside of the paint on offense. The guys on the set of TNT particularly called him out for it last month, and for good reason. The All-Star big man is widely recognized as the most dominant center in the game today. A major part of the reason why he is operating outside of the paint is due to his partner staying near the rim.
As Philadelphia searches for a trade partner to acquire a shooter and/or help on the perimeter, those concerns could have been alleviated earlier had Simmons opted to work on his shooting. He doesn’t have to shoot 45 percent from distance, but he should be comfortable taking those shots. When Simmons attempts a three-pointer, it is blown up and made into some grand spectacle. This makes him out to look like the butt of a joke instead of one of the best players in the game.
The opportunity for Simmons to join the ranks of the elite players is there. He has the physical tools, the basketball IQ and the supporting cast to make it happen. Whether or not it comes to fruition is up to him.
Forget about The Process, Philly’s title hopes hinge on Simmons adding to his game.
Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.
Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.
The Grizzlies and Pelicans have agreed on a trade to send Jonas Valanciunas, 2021 Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, 2021 picks Nos. 10 and 40 and a protected 2022 first-round pick via the Lakers, per @wojespn pic.twitter.com/q7ZoqzpJjt
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 26, 2021
Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.
From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.
Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.
NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.
“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.
In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.
Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.
NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.
Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.
However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.
Raptors, Wolves, Cavs, Pacers and Kings have all showed interest in acquiring Ben Simmons, per B/R's @JakeLFischer
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 25, 2021
Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.
On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.
Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.
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