At long last, possibly? Here's what Ben Simmons could bring to the Boomers
Is 2023 the year we see Simmons return in the green and gold?
A lot can change in four years.
In mid-2019, the Toronto Raptors were NBA champions. There had never been a case of COVID-19 in Australia, and Ben Simmons was at the height of his powers in the middle of a stretch that saw him awarded with three straight All-Star appearances.
Simmons may find himself in very different circumstances one World Cup cycle later, but one familiar conversation remains the same - will he finally don the green and gold in a major FIBA tournament?
Earlier this month, headlines discussing Simmons’ interest in playing for the Australian Boomers, after head coach Brian Goorjian’s now-famous comment: “As we sit now, I think there is a really strong chance [that he plays at the World Cup].”
What was once an exciting proposition has clearly lost some lustre over time. Simmons’ first logical chance to play for Australia in the 2016 Olympics did not eventuate. Citing a need to focus on his rookie NBA season, he missed the 2019 World Cup due to professional obligations after initially making public his intention to play, and again opted out of the 2020 Olympics to focus on ‘individual skill development’ following a peak in public criticism.
Now more than ever, there’s reason to be skeptical that Simmons will appear for the Boomers. For one, Simmons is coming off the worst professional season in his career. Clearly hampered by a lack of optimal health, Simmons navigated back surgery, knee procedures and regular flare ups, ultimately to be shut down for the end of the season, looking like a shell of his former self physically when active.
Simmons himself, in response to Goorjian’s claims, noted that his focus is currently on rehabilitation, with his possible late inclusion to the Olympic selection squad dependent on his health over the next couple of months.
Skepticism regarding Simmons’ commitment to play aside, the prospect of Simmons on the Boomers is clearly a very different proposition to in recent years past, given current form. In China 2019, Simmons’ inclusion would have dramatically shifted the dynamic of the roster and play style, with the point forward capable of pioneering the team’s offence with the ball in his hands. Now, based off his season with the Brooklyn Nets, the idea of a heliocentric Simmons offensive attack seems near impossible, especially with consideration to the FIBA style of international play.
With a lack of floor spacing and overall shot making from the perimeter, the scalability of Simmons’ game has always presented challenges, should he not be ball handler across a lion’s share of possessions. A less than peak Simmons would undoubtedly need to make such concessions on the Australian roster. Between Boomers Patty, one of the most dynamic scoring guards in the international game, and the emergence of other ball handlers, specifically Josh Giddey, what value could Simmons potentially provide in a more ancillary role?
Let’s have a look at what a ‘limited’ Ben Simmons, based on his 2022-23 NBA season health and form could still provide to the Australian Boomers roster.
Say what you will about Ben Simmons’ poor scoring output this season, but he did not forget how to pass.
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