After two years of heavy, mostly deserved slander, the Ben Simmons redemption arc could be in the works. Who’s in for a heck of a storyline? 

The Brooklyn Nets have set the stage as it was reported that they expect their controversial point guard to be solidly in the running for a starting spot. There’s a semblance of confidence. Finally.

The team maintains that Simmons is now 100% healthy, ready to showcase his once-undeniable All-Star abilities and vie for a prominent role in the line-up.

It’s a complete turn from what the energy was just months ago, when he was being shopped around the league after co-stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both left unceremoniously. Unlike those two, though, Simmons didn’t have any takers, so they just made him stay.

It probably didn’t help that he’s owed a boatload of money, specifically $37.8M and $40.3M over the next two seasons. Note that it’s also behind an injury-plagued couple of years, one that had him undergo a back surgery last May 2022, and eventually limit his body to just 42 of a possible 82 games in the 2022-23 season, quietly averaging an impactful 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. His defense wasn’t that good too.

Further, his own coach, Jacque Vaughn, went in-depth about the challenges of just putting him on the floor:

“It’s going to be some work that we have to do … Because you just take a look at what the lineups could potentially look like. You put another big next to Ben, then you got to figure out what the spacing is around him. Then, if you put another playmaker next to him, then you got to figure out what Ben looks like without the basketball. Then if you go small with Ben, then you have to figure out can you rebound enough with him? So the challenges are ahead of us. We’ll look them head on. We’ll figure it out. We have the personnel to figure it out. Whether it is me mixing and matching throughout different pieces of the game, and allowing him to have a group and run with a group, that part we’ll figure out, but you see the challenges that lie ahead.”

That’s not all. We haven’t even mentioned the off-the-court issues with his prior team. Everyone’s still well aware of his turbulent exit from the Philadelphia 76ers, which actually stemmed from his poor on-court performance.

The downward ride can still go up

Standing at an imposing 6’10 and 240 lbs., Simmons possesses a rare combination of size, athleticism, and court vision, making him an alluring prospect at the point guard position. He was seen as a can’t-miss superstar talent with the potential to revolutionize the game.

However, Simmons’s journey has been marked by an alarming lack of progression in key areas of his game. Most notably, his struggles with shooting have been widely scrutinized. After over seven years in the league, two of which were fully slashed by injuries, he has failed to develop a consistent outside shot, which has hindered his offensive impact and raised questions about his fit in a modern, perimeter-oriented NBA. 

Simmons’s hesitancy to shoot has been a perplexing aspect of his game, and it remains to be seen whether the change of scenery can help him overcome this seemingly mental barrier. That, plus the injury history, have raised legitimate concerns among fans and analysts alike.

Here’s one small ray of hope though: he’s only 27 years old, and still has time to redefine his legacy. He now has a chip on his shoulder and he himself knows the clock is ticking to live up to the massive expectations, so it’s a make-or-break season that should lit a fire under him.

Meshing with the young and developing Nets

With the departure of key players and the emergence of new talent, the Nets’ landscape has shifted.  Rising two-way player Mikal Bridges now leads the team, alongside veteran guard Spencer Dinwiddie and developing big man Nic Claxton. Simmons will have to work hard to earn his place in the team’s core and prove that he can mesh effectively with this new lineup, but if he does tap into all of that, there’s little doubt of the impact he can present. He and the Nets can very well be headliners.

Bridges recently expressed support too:

The road to redemption for Ben Simmons will be badgered with challenges, but it also presents a unique opportunity for him to rewrite the narrative of his career. The Brooklyn Nets are hoping that their investment in the talented point guard will pay off, and that he can recapture the promise he showed earlier in his career. Only time will tell if Simmons can rise to the occasion and finally realize his full potential.