During the first half of the 2020-2021 NBA season, Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons flipped a switch and started playing much more aggressively than he did when the season first started. Following a 40-plus point outing against the Utah Jazz in February, Simmons explained what went into his newfound aggression.
"I've honestly just been working on my mentality a lot," Simmons explained. "It's not easy to change the way you play or do certain things in the game that comes naturally to certain people. I feel like I'm figuring it out. Obviously, my scoring's been a lot higher in the last six games. So, as long as I can keep doing that, staying locked in and working on my mental. . . I think it's scary."
Simmons sustained that level of play through the 2021 NBA All-Star break but hasn't been the same since he returned for the second half of the season. Sure, there were a handful of games where Simmons was back on par, but lately, his scoring's been down again. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers admits that he's not worried about Simmons' scoring in the slightest, but he does want to see the young guard get more aggressive.
Sixers center Joel Embiid tends to agree. On Saturday night, Ben Simmons looked fearless from the gate against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was making plays, attacking the basket, and even knocked down a couple of rare jump shots. Like many watching, Joel Embiid was happy to see Simmons get comfortable playing aggressive once again, but the four-time All-Star is urging him to keep it up.
“I tell him all the time -- first of all, I want him to be aggressive versus every single team," said Joel Embiid. "Whether it’s making plays or whether it’s to look for his shot, he’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to make guys on the other team guard him.”
Embiid has never been one to shy away from his urge to say that Simmons needs to help with the team's spacing. While the big man isn't begging for Simmons to unleash the much-desired jumper, he does believe that when Simmons is playing as aggressively as he did on Saturday night, the Sixers reach another level.
“I was really excited when he made those two shots,” Embiid said. “He’s starting to be comfortable, and he’s getting back to where he was right before All-Star, so he’s got to keep on doing it. The first thing, he’s a playmaker. He wants to be a playmaker, and he wants to get everybody involved, but at times, he also needs to be aggressive and make the other guys on other teams guard him.”
As long as Simmons remains a threat to score, teams will have their hands full against the Sixers' starting lineup, which contains two three-point shooting threats in Danny Green and Seth Curry, along with two other multi-level scorers in Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris. With Simmons getting aggressive in all areas of his game, it only makes the team better.