Throughout the landscape of the NBA, there are a multitude of players that can be classified as “overrated.” There are players with massive contracts who do not produce. There are players who have produced in the past but have not lived up to their potential. There are players that receive hype and over-excitement without ever backing it up. You can define “overrated” however you see fit, as it can be a fairly subjective term. However, one thing that cannot be debated is that by far, the most overrated player currently in the NBA is Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.
From the Jump
Simmons was drafted #1 overall in the 2016 draft out of LSU. At the time, he was the consensus #1 pick despite missing the NCAA tournament after an embarrassing 71-38 loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament. When Simmons came into the league he received heaps of praise, as most first overall draft picks do. He was unfortunately sidelined his rookie year due to a foot injury, but the praise and hype continued to build for his potential return.
In his second year, Simmons came back and won Rookie of the Year (the NBA always Rookie injury red-shirts which made Simmons eligible for the award). He defeated budding superstars Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum for the award after producing 15.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 8.2 apg. This may seem trivial, but it is the start of the trend that has morphed Simmons into an NBA poster child despite being just an above average player. Simmons produced good numbers. He was by no means better or more important to his team than Donovan Mitchell in that season. Additionally, he disappeared in the playoffs as Jayson Tatum and the Celtics stomped the 76ers 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Regardless, Simmons is still somehow viewed on a national stage as a better player than both Mitchell and Tatum.
On the Floor
Simmons has been revered for his size and his ability to dictate the game as a play maker. At 6’10”, he is much larger than a typical NBA point guard. On the surface, this looks like a match-up nightmare for opposing teams. In reality, Simmons is able to bully smaller point guards when teams don’t have personnel to match up with him. This becomes even more apparent when he is paired with Joel Embiid on the floor. Embiid typically commands the largest, agile defender. Not many teams have multiple players with the size and quickness to defend both Embiid and Simmons. Since Embiid is the better player, he commands the better defender. Simmons is then able to get to the rim and score because he is young and athletic enough to bully smaller defenders. This particular style of play is not sustainable long term. When he begins to lose a step or is matched with players of similar athleticism, he has struggled.
In other words, Simmons put up completely hollow statistics. He will score in large doses when mismatches are created, but he disappears against better, more diverse competition. He has vanished in multiple playoff games when he has been needed the most. And the 76ers have suffered as a team because of his shrinkage in large moments. Again, regardless, Simmons is still somehow viewed as face of the NBA by national media.
Simmons was extended with a max contract of 5-years, $170 million dollars before this year’s campaign. In a league where teams have difficultly securing homegrown players, the argument can be made that the 76ers needed to pay Simmons this in order for him to remain with the team. The question is: why? The 76ers have chosen to put their faith in building with Simmons as a major piece of their puzzle. Barring an astronomical change in his capabilities as a basketball player, this seems outrageous. Simmons is now set to make $170 million dollars playing basketball, when he literally cannot shoot a basketball. All of his field goals and field goal attempts come from within 15 ft of the basket. As previously mentioned, his only ability to score is getting to the rim against weaker defenders. He has yet to attempt a three pointer in the 2019-2020 campaign. He is terrified to stand in the corners when he playing off of the ball because he absolutely will not shoot from outside his 10 ft bubble around the basket. Somehow, that is worth $170 million to the 76ers as an organization.
It is fair to acknowledge that a player’s jump shot can be developed. However, the summer of 2019 was filled with Instagram videos of Simmons playing against John Doe at the local LA Fitness and draining three pointers. Video captions such as “the league needs to watch out for this version of Ben Simmons.” He was able to hit a three pointer in a preseason game against a team from the Chinese Basketball Association, and the gym exploded like he had just won the NBA championship. All of this, and yet he hasn’t attempted a single three pointer since the NBA season began. What happened? Where is the jump shot from the summer? Did he somehow magically forget how to shoot? Or was he just picking on weaker competition similar to how he produces his empty statistics year in and year out?
It’s clear that there is a bias and hype for Simmons that is extremely unwarranted. It is only a matter of time before that dies down and the league catches up.