The biggest question for the Brooklyn Nets this season is what kind of role and impact can Ben Simmons have. The three-time All-Star played 42 games for the Nets last year, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game, but didn’t play with the level of force or assertiveness that defined his All-Star campaigns to start his career in Philadelphia.
That lack of force was something that frustrated Nets coach Jacque Vaughn last year, but as he’s come to learn a lot of that was because of physical limitations Simmons was still dealing with as he recovered from his back injury. Throughout his absence over the past two years, no one has quite been able to figure out where the line is between the mental and physical side of Simmons’ recovery, and as such the lines get blurred when it comes to what is keeping him from being his old self on the floor.
On Tuesday, Vaughn spoke with the media and was asked about Simmons, and explained that he had a “revelation” this offseason watching Simmons work and feels like he’s been able to build a great relationship with the Australian star going into this season that will allow him to better understand Simmons and put him in positions to succeed by only asking him to do things he can physically do — while also noting he’s playing 5-on-5 with no restrictions.
Jacque Vaughn said he later came to realize Ben Simmons was physically incapable of doing the things he was asking last season:
"My relationship with Ben is in such a good place right now… I expected him to do things that I've come to understand physically he just couldn't… pic.twitter.com/QPCqLcA1wA
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) September 26, 2023
Ben Simmons is playing 5-on-5 with no restrictions and should be ready for training camp, says Jacque Vaughn pic.twitter.com/8Hr3WmhGQ3
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) September 26, 2023
We won’t know exactly what that means until the Nets get out on the floor, but Simmons has spoken this offseason about feeling better and hopefully improved physical health can also work to his advantage in terms of getting a mental edge back on the court. Still, it seems the Nets will look to have Simmons play a role that is more tailored to his current state, which could bode well for him having a larger impact this season.
Brooklyn’s lack of top-level facilitators leaves a clear need for someone with Simmons’ passing acumen, and Simmons has stated he wants to get back to being a point guard. That figures to be where Simmons can have the greatest positive impact on this Nets team, and it’s just a matter of how much of the other stuff he can add that will determine how large his role could be — particularly when it comes to whether he can become anything close to the defensive presence he was at his peak in Philly. Understandably, most NBA fans will take a wait and see approach with Simmons, as this isn’t the first summer filled with chatter about his offseason work, but hopefully he can enjoy a bounceback season as the Nets look to re-establish an identity in their first full year post-Kyrie/KD.