The Brooklyn Nets have a tall task on their hands when it comes to finding a way to get by, while Kevin Durant is on the sidelines with a sprained MCL. Things aren't going particularly well for them, though, as they have now lost four straight games, and if they intend to stay afloat while Durant is out, the Nets will need a lot more from Ben Simmons.
Vaughn is not happy with Ben Simmons' performance this season
Simmons was the primary asset for Brooklyn in the James Harden trade, and the hope was that he would be the missing link in the Nets' rotation with his strong defense, elite playmaking, and skilled finishing at the rim. Unfortunately, Simmons hasn't looked like the player he was earlier in his career with the Philadelphia 76ers and is easily putting together the worst season of his career right now (7.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%).
With Durant out, the Nets were hoping Simmons could finally assert himself more on offense. But once again, Simmons has struggled, and things managed to get even worse on Thursday night when he was ejected after only playing 18 minutes against the Phoenix Suns. It's clear frustrations are rising in Brooklyn, and head coach Jacque Vaughn made it clear that he is expecting more from Simmons when he's on the court.
"We need him to be productive, and that is without the fouls. That is helping us rebound the basketball. That is playing with poise and composure. That is pushing the pace for us. So unfortunately when you're a really good basketball player, your list is long and so are the responsibilities. And hopefully, we'll continue to ask of those things and challenge him and challenge this group to be able to answer those long lists." - Jacque Vaughn, ESPN
The Nets need Simmons to step up in a big way
It's clear Simmons hasn't even come close to reaching expectations this season, and that's a big issue for the Nets, considering all their expectations for him this season. Simmons remains solid defensively, but he's only taking 5.9 shots per game and fouling at an extremely high rate. This differs from what the Nets were looking for when they traded for Simmons.
After overcoming a rocky start to the season, the Nets were flourishing with Durant leading the way, and that was able to mask Simmons' less-than-stellar play. He was making an impact, yes, but certainly not the desired impact for Brooklyn, and now that Durant is out, Simmons' flaws are getting exposed every time he takes the court.
With Simmons missing the entire 2021-22 campaign, there were always some concerns as to whether or not he would be able to find his prior form with the 76ers, and those concerns are beginning to become truly justified. If Simmons cannot get himself out of this rut and, more importantly, stop getting himself ejected or into foul trouble, the Nets could be in some real problem without Durant. It will be interesting to see if he can manage to turn things around over the next few games.