Ben Simmons playing the 5? Do not be surprised

When Steve Nash spoke at the end of last season about how Ben Simmons could play 5 for the Nets, it threw Nets fans into a loop. The 6’11” Simmons has been a playmaker, All-Star point guard, and All-NBA point guard. Why make him a point center.

“I think he plays both [point guard and center]Nash said at the end of the season.

“He’s just such a complete and versatile athlete and talented player that I think it would be limiting to say, ‘Hey, you have to manage the ball all the time. You have to facilitate the offense all the time. That’s what’s special about him is the varied skills he brings to the table. So, yes, he will facilitate and be the leader.

“He will also sometimes be the center. Other times, he’ll be the guy who plays basketball out of position, trying to create an attack on the half court. So for me, it’s playing to your strengths, which are varied, and all those things are part of that.

Indeed, as Brian Lewis wrote on Saturday, Simmons played a lot of 5s when he was playing in Philadelphia and it worked, especially every time Joel Embiid went down…which wasn’t uncommon.

In his four healthy seasons, Simmons has spent 8.1, 10.9, 6.5 and 7.6 percent of his defensive possessions at center, respectively, according to league advanced data. The distribution was quite similar in attack: 6.7, 8.2, 7.5 and 7.2%.

The Nets got a look at what Simmons could be as a smallball 5 in a 2019 first-round playoff loss to the Sixers. When Embiid was sidelined with a knee injury, the Sixers closed out the fourth quarter of Game 3 with Simmons at center. He responded with the best playoff performance of his career: 31 points on 11-for-13 shooting, nine assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

Here are some highlights from that match…

The Sixers’ victory put them up 2-1 and did much to seal the fate of the young Nets.

Brooklyn lacks great men. Simmons along with Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe are the three biggest players currently on the Nets roster. Bobby Marks, in speaking about the Nets’ need to sign a roaming great like Dwight Howard, went even further than Nash last week, saying “we’re likely to see Ben Simmons play the majority of the minutes at center.

Of course, there would be a lot of problems. What would the Nets offense look like late in the game if Simmons and Claxton were on the court together…and neither KD nor Kyrie were with them? Not pretty assuming neither player improved their shot. Also, while Simmons can keep 1-5, the Nets would lack rim protection with him rather than the two young 5s on the court. And of course, the Nets will likely have to wait and see how Simmons fits in after missing a full season, as Seth Curry, who is also part of James Harden’s trade, noted while visiting Simmons’ native Australia. last week.

“It will be a challenge to find your rhythm playing basketball,” Curry said recently in Sydney and Melbourne. “But he’s a special talent, he has all the skills. The Nets need him on the floor.

Still, by all accounts, the Nets see the 26-year-old as a centerpiece, whether in a comeback scenario with Durant and Irving on the field … or in a rebuild. As Lewis notes, after speaking with league executives, “Nets general manager Sean Marks has shown no desire to move Simmons.” As Lewis adds, there isn’t much of a market right now for Simmons who is signed for three years and $113.7 million.

Of course, much of what Simmons will be asked to do will come down to his teammates in October, whether it’s Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving or as-yet-unknown pieces acquired for one or both superstars. Regardless, Curry says, the Nets will need Simmons … even if he doesn’t need a jump shot.

“I don’t think he needs a jump shot. He just has to do what he does best – which is defending, rebounding, pushing the ball, making plays for others and attacking the rim,’ Curry said. “When you have the size and the talent like him, which takes not one but two and sometimes three guys to stop him from reaching the rim, that’s a lot in itself.

“If he can add knocked free throws to a higher clip, that will allow him to be unstoppable once he gets his head down.”

Because of all the KD and Kyrie sturm und drang, Simmons was an afterthought this summer. Once the superstar issues are ironed out, whether before or during the regular season, Simmons’ place on the Nets will be front and center and (perhaps) center.

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