Looking back at the issues the Cavs addressed this off-season, one question remains glaringly unanswered. Who will be Cleveland’s starting small forward? Projections now have Strus taking the role, but with guys like Isaac Okoro and Georges Niang coming off the bench it’s entirely possible that either one of them surpasses Strus in their play and thus their role.
But what about an outside hire? Maybe someone outside the box? Ben Simmons could be a quietly good addition to the team. Without considering the pieces Cleveland would have to give up to acquire him in a trade (which might not be as much as he’s worth, but more on that later), here’s making a case for Ben Simmons on the Cavaliers.
What position would he play?
A player such as Simmons would almost certainly solidify himself as the go-to starter for the three spot. He could also spend solid time playing power forward giving Evan Mobley a chance to garner experience playing the five, which is his projected future position. This would be a starting lineup of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
The primary issue Cleveland faced this offseason was depth scoring. The Cavs acquired/drafted a number of players who could help remedy this, resulting in a roster filled with high-volume shooters and effective slashers. The biggest concern with Simmons over his career has been his inability (and some argue unwillingness) to shoot the ball from distance. With a myriad of scorers both in the starting lineup and coming off the bench, this wouldn’t be near as much of an issue for him in Cleveland.
And while shooting is certainly a concern with Simmons, scoring is not. Over his career, he’s averaged 14.7 points a game on 56 percent shooting from the field. As mentioned Simmons’s outside shooting has been the elephant in the room regarding his play. Factoring that in, or out rather, he has a two-point percentage of 56.5 percent. Granted a Simmons three-point attempt is about as common as a Browns Super Bowl appearance, but making over half his shots is impressive regardless. With the other four starters all being guys who could qualify as all-stars, that’s about as much scoring as you could realistically hope to squeeze into the starting lineup.
More than score
Scoring isn’t the primary way Simmons would help the team, though. Along with the 14.7 points he averages 7.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.6 steals a game. So while he may not be scoring the bulk of Cleveland’s points, he would certainly be dishing a lot of assists to the guys who are. Just under eight rebounds isn’t too shabby for a starting three, especially considering he’d be the third starter sniffing a seven-foot height.
Aside from being a talented facilitator, Simmons is also outstanding defensively. He’s a former league leader in steals and twice an all-defense player with a career defensive rating of 105.9. Isaac Okoro (Cleveland’s current defensive standout) has a career defensive rating of 105.9 for comparison. This would fit well into the team’s current defense-first playstyle, and J.B. Bickerstaff would unquestionably utilize Simmons’s defensive prowess.
It’s possible, but very far from probable that Simmons will ever be a Cleveland Cavalier. He’s a player who’s seen his stock fall drastically since he entered the league, mainly because of his reputation. At the end of the day he’s a first overall draft pick who was 2017-18 Rookie of the Year, 2019-20 All-NBA Third Team and league leader in steals, two-time all-defensive player and three-time all-star. He’s also only 27 years old, meaning he will be able to contribute for years to come. If he somehow ends up on Cleveland’s roster, he could be a sneakily good piece who would be playing in an environment that’s more suited to his preferred play style.
Featured photo courtesy of NBA.com
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