Philadelphia 76ers veteran guard Ben Simmons has garnered tons of criticism since he's been in the league. Oftentimes, his critics tend to focus on the few things he doesn't do too well, rather than focusing on the areas where he's elite.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers hasn't been in Philly for more than six months, but he came into the organization knowing that Simmons brings too much to the table to be focused on the All-Star's lack of a three-point shot.
Since the beginning of his Sixers stint, Rivers has made it clear that he's not focused on Simmons' shot. Instead, he's going to let the veteran play to his strengths. So far, Rivers' strategy seems to be paying off as Simmons has proved once again just how important he is to the team, despite not having the jumper that everybody desires.
Simmons' value to the Sixers was on display recently as Philly faced the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday and the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. For Thursday's matchup, Simmons was ruled out due to calf tightness. Without him on the floor, the Sixers suffered a 16-point loss to an extremely shorthanded Blazers team.
While more went into the loss than just the absence of Simmons, Sixers players and the head coach made it clear just how much the veteran guard was missed. “I thought we missed Ben’s presence all over the floor,” Doc Rivers said on Thursday night. “That’s the point I try to make to you guys when you talk about Ben not making threes. I keep trying to tell everyone, Ben’s value is so much more than what you guys are talking about.”
On Saturday against the Nets, the Sixers had Simmons back in the mix. Once again, his versatility was on display as he nearly picked up another triple-double this year with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists.
As he checked in for almost 35 minutes on Saturday, Simmons helped lead the 76ers to a 16-point victory over the James Harden-led Brooklyn Nets. After playing without him and then with him once again on back-to-back games -- Rivers couldn't help but express just how "invaluable" Simmons is to the 76ers on both sides of the ball.
"It’s amazing, what he single handily does for your offense," Rivers said in regards to Simmons' offensive playmaking skills. "I don’t know if anyone in the league creates more threes as Ben Simmons does. Maybe LeBron? I'm not even sure.”
As far as defense goes, Simmons earned his stripes last season. And he continued to display that high level of play on Saturday night as he was crucial in slowing down James Harden. “I thought it changed the game for sure,” Rivers mentioned. “I thought allowing him to play off Harden in the first half gave us a lot of energy in the second half, and that’s what you want to happen."
“You have to coach him and be around him to see his value," Rivers continued. "He’s invaluable to a basketball team and what he does. Not only just with his defense and his passing but just so many little things that he does that is just unbelievable.”
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_