Ben Simmons has had a stellar rookie season but is it enough

NBA All-Star voting has revealed Ben Simmons’ fellow players — and the US basketball media — don’t rate him as highly as fans.

THE Ben Simmons NBA All-Star train is losing momentum.

The NBA announced a fan, player and media vote selected the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving and Toronto Raptor’s DeMar DeRozan as the starting guards on the East’s squad ahead of Philadelphia 76ers’ rookie Simmons for the February 18 All-Star game in Los Angeles.

Simmons had placed third in fan voting but it appears NBA audiences rate him higher than the basketball media — and his fellow players.

The 21-year-old was rated just the sixth best guard in the East in the player and media vote, behind Irving, DeRozan, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Washington duo John Wall and Bradley Beal.

NBA coaches will announce next Tuesday if Simmons will make the All-Star game as a reserve, a feat if successful that would make him the first Australian to receive the honour and place him on an elite list of All-Star rookies including Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan.

The frontrunner for the coveted Rookie of the Year trophy, Simmons’ stellar play has captured the eyes of many and the voting reflects just how much he has stood out.

Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with Simmons making it into the marquee event.

ESPN’s NBA reporter Zach Lowe and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons discussed Eastern Conference All Star voting on the latest Lowe Post Podcast, with some interesting talking points surrounding Simmons’ chances.

“I just don’t know what to do with Ben Simmons, I would classify him as more of a front court player than a guard,” Lowe said.

“He can’t shoot, like at all.

“He’s just a very strange player and you always get the push back, like when I ask coaches in particular about if he could be an All Star, (they say) ‘He’s a rookie, he’s got to earn the All Star, you can’t just put a rookie in All Star.’

“I just have no idea what to do with Ben Simmons.”

It was then over to Bill Simmons, who said Philly’s young gun had plateaued.

“He’s tailed off a little bit and I think it’s more because teams have been able to watch him now and they’ve game planned him a little bit, but the lack of shooting is just a problem,” Simmons said.

“We talk about the 50-40-90 club, he is in the 50-0-50 club. His free throw shooting is almost worse than his field goal percentage and he can’t shoot from three obviously at all.

“He’s such a good basketball player that he’s figured out how to work around it, but at some point there’s going to be a reckoning.

“If you can’t shoot and you’re the team’s best ball handler, that’s a major disadvantage with the way basketball is being played now.

“In the Rockets-Clippers game, the Rockets took like 50 threes so if you’re going to have your ball handler who can’t shoot threes, you don’t have anything in common with the league anymore and I don’t know how they fix that.”

It’s stinging criticism for Ben Simmons who has comfortably become Australia’s favourite athlete over the past three months.

The bad news however is that it’s impossible to argue with the points they’ve raised.

Simmons’ shooting woes have plagued his rookie campaign and, after 39 games this season, his averages don’t make for pretty viewing.

From the field he has an average of 51.3 per cent while from the free throw line he’s currently sitting at 55.6 per cent.

Of the 106 qualified players* listed under the free throw percentage statistic, Simmons is ranked as number 105.

Adding to the chorus of critics, NBCS’s Amy Kane and Marshall Harris discussed why the Aussie will miss out.

“The reason he won’t make it is because he didn’t get up to second in the fan voting and the players and coaches are not going to vote for him,” Kane said.

“Forget about the players, he’s not going to be a starter and that was the only way he was going to get in,” Harris added.

The hard part for Simmons is the fact that he is listed in the guard category and with only two spots available for guards in the hands of the coaches, he has a tough list to beat out.

Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers is enjoying a breakout season while Washington Wizards player Bradley Beal has thrived without his running mate John Wall.

“He’s punished for being a guard because there are only two starting spots and two reserve spots and then two wildcard spots,” Harris said.

*To qualify, a player must be on pace for 125 free throws made.

by James McKern


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