Aggressive has become a bit of a buzzword with Ben Simmons.
What exactly does it mean to Sixers head coach Doc Rivers?
“I want him to be aggressive,” Rivers said Saturday night, “but I think you think of aggressiveness and him being aggressive scoring, and I think of aggressive as him getting to the paint, creating plays. He can have an aggressive game, for me, where he doesn’t shoot a lot but he was aggressive and he used his speed.
“And that’s what we want. We need him to create either straight-line drives to the basket or to create traffic. And that’s what we really want, as much traffic as he can get, and then he can dish it out. So we’re good either way, but when he does that, we’re a better team.”
Nobody would argue with the statement that Simmons was aggressive at the start of the Sixers’ 117-93 win Saturday over the Thunder. He scored 10 points within the game’s first six minutes, making three layups, two free throws and a 10-foot jumper. Later, he drained another jump shot, this one from just inside the free throw line.
Simmons only needed to play 28 minutes, recording 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, three rebounds, three assists and no turnovers. His stat line against a very young Oklahoma City team doesn’t matter much, although the zero-turnover effort could be classified as encouraging after Simmons seemed to have his turnovers under control and then gave it away six times Friday night against the Pelicans.
Rivers has been consistent this season in calling Simmons a “facilitator,” someone who puts his teammates in good positions whether he’s playing point guard, power forward or a hybrid role.
“That’s how he has to be every night,” Rivers said. “He had a better understanding of the flow of the game, which I didn’t think as a team we understood that last night. Tonight I thought we did. We milked plays; we got the ball to the hot hand. I thought that was great tonight, and Ben was responsible for most of it.”
Joel Embiid, who posted 27 points and nine rebounds, also weighed in on the topic of Simmons’ aggression. For him, it is important that Simmons looks to score more.
“Oh yeah, for sure. … First of all, I want him to be aggressive every single play, whether it’s to make plays or whether it’s to look for his shot,” Embiid said. “He’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to make guys on the other team guard him — like tonight. We saw it. I was really excited when he made those two (jump) shots.
“He’s starting to be comfortable. He’s getting back to where he was right before the All-Star break, so he’s got to keep on doing it. He’s a playmaker and he wants to be a playmaker. He wants to get everybody involved but at times, you also need to just be aggressive and make the other guys on the other teams guard him.”
When Simmons is at his best, he’s often driving into the paint and placing some form of pressure on the defense. Rivers noted earlier this season that the Sixers track paint touches as a team.
Driving and scoring aren’t the only ways Simmons can be impactful offensively, though. Smart off-ball movement, offensive rebounding (remember Brett Brown saying Simmons could be like Kenneth Faried or Enes Kanter against zone defenses?), screening and rolling are other avenues for Simmons to help the Sixers.
Defensively, discussions about what Simmons must do or how he should approach the game aren’t necessary. He’s special on that end of the floor and will match up Monday night against a star he smothered in February, the Mavs’ Luka Doncic.
Meanwhile, there’s no confusion about what “aggressive scoring” looks like for Simmons — exploiting size and speed advantages, shrugging off contact and either finishing authoritatively or drawing free throws. Embiid likes when he sees that player.