Portland Trail Blazers: 3 pros and cons of trading for Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons, Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons, Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Ben Simmons, Clint Capela, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers
Ben Simmons, Clint Capela, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Portland Trail Blazers trade for Ben Simmons – Pro 1: Defensive Mastermind

The defensive upgrade that would come from trading CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons simply cannot be overstated. On one hand, we have a guard who stands 6’3 in shoes, weighs around 180-lbs soaking wet, and has the defensive instincts and reaction speed of a traffic cone.

On the other , we have a 6’10 behemoth, who moves like a guard and can hold up against all five positions justifiably well.

Ben Simmons is a fantastic defender not only on the ball against virtually any attacker, but is a smart off-ball safety as well. There’s plenty of holes in his game, but basketball IQ is certainly not one of them.

In this play, the Indiana Pacers enter a semi-fast break with T.J. McConnell leading the charge into the Sixers paint. Ben Simmons recognizes the play as it escalates and strategically trails the driver while also positioning himself between the ballhandler and his cutting man, Domantas Sabonis. As McConnell digs deeper into the paint, Simmons fades off of his man and traps McConnell using the baseline forcing the Pacers guard into an emergency outlet pass.

With his positioning and size, Simmons is able to tip the ball and wind up with the steal, without fouling.

CJ McCollum doesn’t have the defensive instincts to make this play, let alone the size and agility required.

Portland Trail Blazers trade for Ben Simmons – Con 1: Offensively Deficient

As much of an upgrade on defense that Simmons would be over CJ, the rules of physics are fully in play here. Each action causes an opposite, but equal reaction—meaning that the upgrade on defense might be completely negated by the downgrade on offense.

CJ McCollum is absolutely one of the greatest scorers in the league. He proves it in the box score already, but he could do a lot more damage with his counting stats if he didn’t share the court with another legendary bucket, Damian Lillard.

So far in his career, McCollum has played in 33 games sans Dame. In that time, he’s averaged 28.1 points, 6.2 assists, and five rebounds per game, while shooting 46 percent from the floor, 36 from deep, and 79 from the stripe.

Ben Simmons’s offense has been dissected and critiqued enough as it is, but it’s mostly well-deserved. At this point in his career, it goes beyond just his unwillingness to shoot threes or lack of improvement in his jumper.

Since coming into the league, Simmons hasn’t added anything to his offensive game. He hasn’t gotten better as a post scorer. He hasn’t improved on his free-throw accuracy. He hasn’t developed as a screener and rim runner.

The conversation has turned from “when will Ben Simmons improve on his offense?” to “is Ben Simmons willing to work on his game?.” This turn in phrase makes a dramatic difference in the outlook of his career. Many players take longer to develop an outside jump-shot, and some don’t at all. But if Simmons isn’t willing to identify and address the weaknesses in his offensive game, then he’s practically a finished product as a player. If he’s a finished product, he won’t be a significant upgrade over CJ McCollum.