There is only one three-time All-Star from the 2016 NBA Draft: Ben Simmons. Before the 2021 playoffs, Simmons might’ve been the No. 1 pick in this exercise. Last time he played a full season of basketball, Simmons was firmly in the hunt for Defensive Player of the Year. He was a nightly triple-double threat and one of the most prolific playmakers in basketball.
A lot has happened since then. Simmons sat out the entire 2021-22 season, citing mental health issues and back problems. He has now missed two full seasons since he was drafted in 2016, but even so, only he and Sabonis have made multiple All-Star teams. Simmons was elite from the jump, and his sustained excellence over his last four seasons cannot be overlooked.
The offensive hang-ups are unavoidable at this point. In Philly, Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot (or even attack the basket) made for an uncomfortable fit next to Joel Embiid. Now in Brooklyn, while the sample size is small, we are seeing the issues posed when Simmons plays next to a non-shooting five. If he’s not getting downhill and putting pressure on the rim, Simmons might as well be invisible offensively. Defenses don’t guard him on the perimeter and he’s too passive to take consistent advantage of favorable matchups. It’s an issue.
On the flip side, Simmons generates more 3s for teammates than any player in basketball. He’s a brilliant passer who can pressure the rim when he puts his mind to it. At 6-foot-10, Simmons possesses a combination of size and speed that makes him practically unguardable in transition. Plus, he’s arguably the best wing defender in the NBA — a viable DPOY candidate when he’s healthy and engaged.