How Ben Simmons’ return could supercharge the Nets

NBA Analytics Network

The Brooklyn Nets find themselves in a 3-0 hole against the Boston Celtics in their first round series as part of the 2022 NBA playoffs. Normally a 7 seed losing both games on the road to start the series against a 2 seed wouldn’t be breaking news, but it’s a little concerning that a team of basketball savants and offensive geniuses Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving faces a potential sweep.

Despite the individual genius of Durant and Kyrie Irving, this Nets team is still deeply flawed. The roster is sorely lacking in clearance, rim protection and athleticism.

Steve Nash has disappointed hugely as a coach, acting more as a motivator than a true tactician. But Brooklyn has the piece that could fill nearly all of their holes already in the team; he just hasn’t set foot on the pitch yet.

After the James Harden-Ben Simmons trade, a faction of analysts believed the Brooklyn Nets actually came out on top, as they were able to build depth, part ways with a detached Harden and possibly land Ben Simmons’ best overall player in the trade.

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Of course, that all changed when Simmons suffered an actual injury after sitting out most of the season for reasons other than basketball.

Now, however, there has been encouraging news for Simmons’ return.

How can Ben Simmons revitalize a Nets team looking a 3-0 hole?

Experts may be wondering how effective Simmons can be after not playing a game for almost a year. The question is fair. After all, Ben10 would not only be returning to the field after a long layoff, but he would also be fitting into a whole new team, with new teammates and a new system.

However, it’s pretty clear that Simmons can be placed in a simple role in which he can still have a major impact. He can achieve this by becoming Bruce Brown 2.0.

LATEST NBA NEWS AND PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: Could the Brooklyn Nets make a series comeback against the Boston Celtics?

Like Simmons, Bruce Brown is a non-shooter who makes his money on the defensive side of the field. Simmons, however, is six or seven inches taller, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate when healthy, and also happens to be a wizard with the ball in his hands despite not having a jump shot.

By simply deploying Simmons in Brown’s role and spots on the court, the Brooklyn Nets will massively improve their cap and give the Boston Celtics a whole different dimension to worry about.

On offense, the Nets primarily use Brown as a screen because rolling him to the edge can balance his non-threat as a shooter. However, since he’s not an elite offensive threat even heading for the basket, the Celtics can pull away from his screens and force him to make a call or play.

Brown has had success in that role, at least enough to keep him on the field for his elite defense. In 2021-22, he averaged 9.0 points and 2.1 assists primarily acting as a short roller and tertiary ball handler. As he did the float in the clip above, imagine Simmons getting to attack that wide open lane. He could throw it at the low man, throw it at an open shooter, or just slam it himself.

Boston is apparently getting more aggressive in trapping Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, knowing they’d be better off leaving Brooklyn’s other players open than trying to keep those two one-on-one. In this play, Brown sets up a screen for Durant and the two Celtics defensemen come out to shade Durant.

Since Brown isn’t much of an offensive threat, Kevin Durant decides that a contested triple coming off the pick is probably a better result than swinging it at Brown and all that.

LATEST NBA NEWS AND PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: Could the Brooklyn Nets make a series comeback against the Boston Celtics?

While Ben10 wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the wide-open triple opportunity either, driving to the hoop with an open lane is far more dangerous than Brown. In this situation, the Cs would either give Simmons an easy two or crumble the paint and risk Simmons finding an open deep teammate.

Outside of the role of Bruce Brown, Ben Simmons is the most natural point guard on the Nets roster. While KD and Kyrie are quite capable of creating on their own and finding an open man when the opportunity arises, Simmons would bring the offensive balance that only a true field general can.

Having Simmons to execute pick-and-rolls and split defenses would keep the Nets from settling for tough shots like the one above. Brooklyn can’t just rely on hard hits from KD and Kyrie to carry them through this series, especially against an elite defense like Boston’s.

LATEST NBA NEWS AND PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: Could the Brooklyn Nets make a series comeback against the Boston Celtics?

On defense, Simmons is a 6’10 behemoth who is just as adept at defending the weakside rim as he is hunting elite perimeter threats around the arc. While Bruce Brown is no slouch at this end of the field, having Simmons’ size, along with another top perimeter stopper, would be a game-changer for Brooklyn’s defense.

Adding a 6’10 rim guard that can also reasonably slow Jayson Tatum on the perimeter would be an absolute boon to the Nets’ defense, not to mention allowing Kevin Durant to conserve more energy for the offensive.

The odds are massively stacked against the Brooklyn Nets even after Ben Simmons returned to the lineup. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 loss in a series. At the very least, they can get a glimpse of what their team could build for the 2022-23 season.