On Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets lost another tough contest against the Boston Celtics, 114-107, giving them a 2-0 deficit in their best-of-seven first-round series.
Kevin Durant has struggled offensively in both games, as did Kyrie Irving in Game 2, and a remedy has to be found for their shooting troubles.
However, one could argue that defense has also been a problem for Brooklyn, as Jayson Tatum had a big Game 1, and the Nets have had issues preventing the Celtics from getting decent looks in crunch time.
Ben Simmons could help with all these problems, and rumor has it that he and the Nets are targeting Game 4 for his team debut.
Simmons, of course, hasn’t played all season due to several reasons, the most recent of which has been a herniated disc in his lower back.
But how much will his presence change things for Brooklyn?
Can he make the Nets the favorites in the Eastern Conference to reach the NBA Finals?
Simmons Could Help Jumpstart the Nets Offense
One of Simmons’ greatest strengths is his open-court play.
When he decides to be aggressive, he is dangerous in fast break and early offense situations, and his ability to up-tempo the game can get Durant and Irving easier looks, which could serve as a catalyst for their overall offensive games, as well as get himself easy baskets.
This league has seen very few players as devastating in the open court as Ben Simmons…LeBron James is one of the only others that comes to mind. pic.twitter.com/GSWWD25FVr
— Shady Mike Gaming (@ShadyMikeGaming) December 21, 2020
Vintage open court Ben Simmons 😍 pic.twitter.com/Z0DsT32iDD
— Thiago (@ThiagoPHL) November 10, 2018
The Nets’ transition game has been inconsistent so far in this series, and that’s a problem, as it is perhaps their biggest weapon offensively.
When Brooklyn pushes the pace and strings together fast-break buckets, it can act as a battering ram for opponents, as they will end up on the wrong side of a quick but blistering spurt.
Boston prefers a slower pace, and if the Nets are unable to play at their pace, they will have trouble getting back in this series.
He Is A Game-Changer Defensively
The Louisiana State University product is known as a defensive dynamo, and his athleticism and 6-foot-10 frame allow him to guard players at multiple positions.
He was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team in both of the last two seasons, and in 2021 he was being discussed as a prime candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Simmons has the body to cover Tatum, and he does have a history of doing well on the Celtics’ superstar.
📌[EP. 2] INVESTIGATING A PLAYOFF SERIES BETWEEN BOS & PHILA 💭
• Since ‘18, Jayson Tatum is 9-for-26 when defended by Ben Simmons
• Of 6 teams that Tatum faced 3 or more times, he registered the worst FG% against the Sixers https://t.co/oJVR1EFa7q pic.twitter.com/mIo8cyaGCR
— Brock Landes (@LandesBrock) June 26, 2020
Slowing down Tatum in all phases of the game (remember, he also had eight assists in Game 1 and 10 assists in Game 2) will be integral to getting Brooklyn back in the series.
Too Little, Too Late
However, the simple truth is that adding such a big piece as Simmons so late in the season won’t yield full dividends for a while.
There will definitely be an adjustment period when Simmons gets on the court, not just for the Nets but also for Simmons himself.
He will surely be rusty, and it will take him a while to get into game shape, let alone to develop chemistry with his new teammates.
For now, the smart money has to be on the Milwaukee Bucks being favored to return to the championship series.
But next season, if they remain healthy and figure out how to be solid defensively, the Nets could supplant them as the beast of the East.