Ben Simmons fouled out again Monday night. He’s fouled out of two of his first three games as a member of the Brooklyn Nets and has nearly as many fouls as points. So far, Simmons has posted 17 points, 14 fouls, 18 rebounds, and 21 assists in three games. This is the guy who was once touted as the “next” LeBron James — who at one point said Simmons could be better than him — coming out of LSU. Despite early accolades in his career Simmons is the most overrated No. 1 overall draft pick of the past 20 years, at best. At least? The most overrated player ever.
Simmons’ NBA career started on the wrong foot (no pun intended) as he missed his first year of 2016-17 with a foot injury. He debuted the following season, winning Rookie of the Year — since it was his official debut — and being named to the All-Rookie Team in ‘18. Ben’s first two active years were a success, and it looked like he was on a trajectory headed for stardom.
The former LSU Tiger — lest we forget Simmons failed to lead the team to the NCAA Tournament — peaked as a scorer in his second season, averaging just under 17 points per game alongside 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists. He’s declined little by little in each category since year two. Simmons sat out last season and was shipped away from Philadelphia to Brooklyn at February’s trade deadline.
When a player comes into any league with the kind of hype Simmons had, sometimes they can get the benefit of the doubt. The LeBron James comparisons with Simmons came during a time when the NBA had begun to look forward to the future. In the same way, they looked for a new face to replace Michael Jordan, the same thing happened with James. In a league built around star power, you need an heir apparent to the throne.
That torch should’ve been passed to Simmons by this point, but there’s no chance of it happening now. Sure, he’s been an All-Star, All-NBA, and All-Defensive player, which is fantastic. But can anyone honestly point out an aspect of Ben’s game that’s improved significantly since he entered the NBA? You can’t.
James continued to progress each year and added different facets to his game. The same goes for Magic Johnson, whom Simmons was also compared to early on. The former Sixer peaked in his second year and has only continued to fall off since then. That’s not just an opinion, it’s a fact.
He’s a player with all the talent in the world, but it seems Simmons is happier being a celebrity ball player than actually getting better on the court. Maybe it is something in his head. That I’d buy, and genuinely understand if that’s the case. That doesn’t change the fact that in seven years, you can’t name one part of Simmons’ game that is better now than when he played his first game in ‘17.
However, it’s not all Ben’s fault. Much of the blame goes to those who began to throw out comparisons to LeBron and Magic. That may have built an unreal level of expectation that Simmons was never going to live up to. Not because he didn’t have the talent but because it has never felt like he cares to be great. You could see Simmons’ talent two towns over without binoculars. That’s how gifted he is, but at a certain point, something inside needs to take over and push you past that.
Jordan was insanely talented coming out of college, yet no one projected him to be one of the greatest players of all time. By comparing Simmons to players like LeBron and Magic, that’s the pedestal he was placed upon. In many people’s opinions, these are two of the five greatest players the NBA has ever seen, and Simmons isn’t even top 15 in his own era.
This season is still young, and those first three games could be an example of knocking off some rust. Simmons hadn’t played NBA basketball in well over a year, so that’s to be expected. But fouling out in two of those games isn’t a good look. The worst part is his complaining about it after the game.
“It wasn’t a foul. He called it a foul, made a mistake. It is what it is,” Simmons said. “Really frustrating. But all I can do now is support my team from the bench. But fuck yeah, it’s frustrating. It’s not a foul. That was bullshit. It’s frustrating because it’s a late game, it’s the fourth quarter, it’s a physical close game. It’s the NBA. This is not college. It’s not high school. Some people are going to get hit, some people will bleed. It’s basketball.”
Brooklyn’s situation was already a mess, and it doesn’t look like Simmons will make things any easier for the Nets if he continues down this path.