Ben Simmons Is Already Receiving the Wrong Advice From Steve Nash

Just a few weeks ago, no one knew when (or if) Ben Simmons would play this season. But thanks to Steve Nash and the Brooklyn Nets, the All-Star guard has scored a much-needed change of scenery.

Simmons, 25, appears to be just days away from making his season debut. There’s a chance his return to action will come against the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise Simmons gave up on and vice versa.

The relationship between Simmons and the Sixers gradually deteriorated after the Australian’s no-show in last year’s playoffs. While the 6-foot-11 point guard does a lot of things well, his inability to shoot hurt Philadelphia in its second-round exit to the Atlanta Hawks.

Although Simmons is in a new situation, his old problems could continue to follow him. Especially after some of the advice Nash, his new head coach, is putting into his head.

Steve Nash believes Ben Simmons won’t need to shoot the ball

When a two-time MVP and Hall of Famer talks, you listen. That should be the case for 99% of the instances Nash offers advice. Simmons, who has similar passing ability to Nash with more athletic gifts at his disposal, should especially stand at attention.

However, Brooklyn’s second-year coach is giving Simmons the green light … to not shoot the basketball once he returns to action (h/t: NBC Sports Philadelphia).

“Ben does a thousand things on the basketball court. Shooting is not one that I’m dying to see. He is an amazing basketball player, and that’s without shooting the ball. So to me there’s not a conversation there at all. If he gets better at shooting, great. But he’s an All-Star basketball player and has an incredible potential to affect games with all the other things he does. So to be honest with you, it’s not a huge concern of mine.”

Steve Nash

Simmons, the top pick of the 2016 draft, has averaged 15.9 points on 56.0% shooting for his career. But every year, he’s scored anywhere between 76.0 and 80.4% of his points in the paint. For context, the 7-footer Joel Embiid has never had a season with more than 47.5% of his points coming from the paint.

Nash’s advice to Simmons misses the mark

To Nash’s credit, he certainly means well. Brooklyn’s coach needs to do everything he can to build Simmons’ morale and empower him to play to the best of his abilities. That’s especially important given the mental turmoil Simmons dealt with over the last few months in Philadelphia.

That being said, Nash’s advice to not worry about shooting will come back to bite both him and his new superstar.

Last season, the 76ers roared to the Eastern Conference’s number one seed. But the regular season and playoffs are two entirely different animals. The first can largely mask any particular weakness. The second simply cannot.

When the Sixers matched up against the Hawks, the games slowed down. They became half-court battles that often came down to who could hit a big shot in the biggest moments. In those situations, Philly was more or less playing 4-on-5.

That’s because Atlanta didn’t have to worry about Simmons, who would often stand in the corner and play very little role in the offense. The Hawks knew they didn’t need to focus on him anywhere outside a few feet from the basket, which allowed them to hone in on Embiid and Tobias Harris. And it paid off, as Simmons attempted just three shots over the course of seven fourth quarters in the series.

Then when Simmons did have the ball, his opponents utilized the Hack-a-Ben strategy to perfection. So not only did he refuse to shoot open jumpers, he went a dismal 33.3% on 45 free-throw attempts.

Simmons still did all of the things Nash mentioned and did them well. But ultimately, his shooting (or lack thereof) sunk a Sixers team that finished above all others in the conference.

Even with a full team, the Brooklyn Nets won’t get far if Ben Simmons is a non-factor on offense

The Nets are still waiting to assemble their full team. Kevin Durant is in the final stages of recovering from a sprained MCL. Kyrie Irving is, at least for now, playing exclusively on the road. And Joe Harris, the team’s best three-point shooter, doesn’t have a timetable for his return.

Yet even when all of those players are healthy and available come playoff time, it won’t make a difference if Simmons replicates last season’s failure.

No matter how dominant of a passer, rebounder, or defender someone is, they need to also provide the threat that when they have an open shot, they’re willing to take it. The only players in today’s NBA where you don’t need to worry about them taking open jumpers are the lumbering centers who receive little to no minutes during crunch time.

So unless Nash plans on giving Simmons less than 10 minutes a game and sitting him during the fourth quarter, something has to give.

From now until the playoffs, Simmons should be doing everything possible to become a viable scoring option from beyond the paint. That’s not a call for him to become Stephen Curry. All he needs to do is give defenses enough of a reason to keep a man on him in half-court offenses.

From there, Durant will be better off. Irving will be better off. And the Nets as a whole will have five players on the court at all times who can make opponents pay if given the opportunity.

With a little bit of practice, Simmons can truly elevate the Nets into title contention. But without making any changes, he’s all but ensured that Brooklyn’s postseason appearance will be brief.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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