Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons: One of the Biggest Busts in NBA History

Let’s get this out of the way immediately. Ben Simmons was the number one overall pick, Rookie of the Year, a 2x All-Defensive team member, one time All-NBA, and has a career PER of 19.8 (the league average is 15.0). I am very well aware of all his career accolades, but I will still make the case he is one of the biggest busts in NBA history. Not because of a lack of production, but because I don’t think he cares.

Since Simmons was drafted in 2016, he has been the same player. Normally consistency is a positive, but in the case of Ben Simmons I believe it is a symptom of something much more troubling. He has been coasting off of his natural talent and God given size. If you’ve followed his career since entering the NBA, there has been next to no signs of improvement from him. No added facets to his game. His jumpshot was suspect coming into the NBA and he has not improved it whatsoever, it’s actually gotten worse. His free throw shooting is similarly terrible, shooting 59.7% for his career. In order to put it into better context let me read out a few of his stats year by year…I think you will see a pattern.

His second year (technically his Rookie year, due to injury) he averaged 15.8 PPG, 8.2 Rebounds, and 8.1 assists. For a rookie those numbers are outstanding. Sixers fans and NBA fans alike were salivating at where his ceiling could reach if this was what he was capable of in his first real NBA campaign. His second year he averaged 16.9 PPG, 8.8 Rebounds, and 7.7 assists. Slight improvements to the numbers overall, but his game on the floor was a carbon copy to what it looked like in his first year, all his buckets are in the paint, attacking in transitions, or post-ups on smaller guards.

Year three he averaged 16.4 PPG, 7.8 Rebounds, and 8.0 assists. Noticing something? His blocks, FG %, FT % and shot attempts per game during his first three years were all eerily similar also. What I’m getting at is that Ben Simmons has been, more or less, the exact same player since he has entered the league. This sort of development, or lack thereof, is not what you want out of any player, let alone your number one overall pick.

I realize my argument for him being one of the biggest busts ever is still tentative, at best. While he hasn’t developed his game, he is still producing at a high level, so at the very least the 76ers did get a valuable piece for their pick. Let me take it a step further. In the playoffs, most of his offensive numbers drop. What’s most alarming to me is his field goal attempts per game go down by almost four shots. He becomes a liability in the slower, more half court-based format that the playoffs boil down too. He has no way to create a bucket for himself in such tight spacing. In fact, he was often relegated to the “dunker” spot in the playoffs. Basically, he would stand near the lower block waiting for a dump-off pass where he was within three feet of the basket. That is not what you want out of your top overall pick, especially when he is a guard, someone who is supposed to be initiating the offense, the man who should be spoon-feeding others baskets, not being spoon-fed. 

All of that aside. My biggest argument for him being one of the biggest busts in NBA history is his complete indifference to playing. We are talking about a guy whose biggest red flag coming out of college was just that, his indifference to playing the game. He comes off to me as someone who plays just for the money and fame. Someone who says, “I’m already good enough. Why do I need to work on anything?” Ben Simmons had one of the most epic playoff meltdowns I have seen in my life, a refusal to shoot any shot outside of three feet, including that infamous pass out of a dunk he had in a pivotal playoff game where his teammate Joel Embiid felt the need to call him out over it post game. Then once the criticism started coming, instead of proving everyone wrong, he doubled down and decided he wanted out of Philly. Acting out at practice and getting sent home by head coach Doc Rivers. Joel Embiid publicly declaring he was over it. It was very clear this situation was irreparable for both sides.

Okay. Fine. You feel underappreciated by the fanbase that turned on you and you need a change of scenery. I don’t like it, but I can understand it. He gets dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster trade for James Harden…now suddenly, he has a back injury…

If you read between the lines, at least from my perspective, his excuse to not play dissipated when he was traded. He couldn’t hold out with the excuse of never wanting to play in Philly again. This mysterious back injury manifested itself the moment he was traded to the Nets, maybe he hurt it picking up the checks he has been collecting for not doing his job…must be nice. To this point, he has played zero minutes for the Brooklyn Nets. As it stands, this is one of the worst trades recent NBA history. The Nets, in pure desperation, traded for a player who has shown no desire to improve, zero tolerance for criticism, and an indifference to playing the sport he is being paid max money to play. A recent report has the Nets “exasperated” with Ben Simmons already. Yikes.

Ben Simmons is a bust because given his physical tools and natural abilities he should be a top 10-15 player in this league, easily. He should be a walking triple-double who can get a team into their offense and pick teams apart in transition. He should be someone who has added facets to his game each and every year to help him and the team, to shore up his weaknesses and refine his strengths.

Instead we have Ben Simmons, the player whose been the same since he was a prospect in high school. Add on the off-court drama, max money contract, and apparent back injury and I wonder how valuable he really is? I also wonder if he is mentally broken from the massive wave of criticism he was swallowed by in his last year in Philly?

It is my belief Ben Simmons will be one of the biggest disappointments in NBA history…and one of the most interesting ‘What-ifs.’


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