Earlier this week, Simmons had a sitdown interview with FOX5’s Tina Cervasio where he expressed excitement for the upcoming season and his interest in playing with Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. Another interesting nugget was how Simmons sees himself positionally.
“That’s what I am, I’m a point guard. As much as people try to put me in -- everyone’s a GM in their head -- I’m a point guard,” Simmons said in the interview.
If Simmons starts at point guard this season, it would displace Spencer Dinwiddie. The nine-year veteran started 26 regular season games and four playoff games at point guard after he was acquired from the Dallas Mavericks in the Kyrie Irving deal.
There’s a higher ceiling for this Nets team if Simmons is the starter, but he’s coming off a career-worst year. Dinwiddie is the more consistent player but has his flaws as well.
Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Simmons and Dinwiddie and how each player impacts the Nets' starting lineup.
Simmons is looking to redeem himself from essentially two lost seasons of basketball. He has missed 122 of a possible 164 games.
When he did play last year for the Nets, Simmons operated more as a power forward and center due to the presence of Irving. He was limited, averaging a career-low 6.9 points and attempting a miniscule 7.7 shots per 36 minutes.
On defense, a lineup with the 6-foot-10 Simmons, 6-foot-6 Bridges, 6-foot-8 Johnson and 6-foot-11 Nic Claxton is capable of switching across multiple positions and features several players with length. If an extra defender such as Royce O’Neale or Dorian Finney-Smith is in the lineup with that grouping, the Nets could have a very stout defense.
It will be interesting to see how the pairing of Simmons with Claxton translates on the court. Neither player provides any shooting which could cramp Brooklyn’s spacing in the half court.
One benefit Simmons had playing point guard in Philadelphia was he played with Joel Embiid at center. Embiid is not a great three-point shooter, but he was good enough and teams had to respect his ability to attack off the dribble.
When Simmons shared time with paint bound backup Dwight Howard in Philadelphia during the 2020-21 season, they were awful together. In 368 minutes, the two-man lineup of Simmons and Howard was outscored by 8.8 points per 100 possessions.
Simmons was better with Claxton on the floor last season (plus-5.7 points per 100 possessions in 517 minutes), but much of that time was spent with Irving and Kevin Durant on the floor as well.
Simmons barely played with Brooklyn’s midseason acquisitions. It could look different with less threatening offensive players this year.
Peak Simmons attacks in transition and in the open floor, which could diversify the Nets offense, but he has a lot to prove after two empty seasons.
Outside of Simmons, the Nets have the option of kicking off the season with Dinwiddie running the show. The guard averaged 9.1 assists in his limited time with Brooklyn last year.
Dinwiddie shot just 28.9 percent from three with the Nets last year and is a career 33.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Those numbers still make him sound like Stephen Curry when compared to Simmons.
Dinwiddie can score in the halfcourt pick-and-roll while being able to get downhill and make plays for himself and his teammates. However, he’s not the foul-drawing, efficient attacker that he was in his first Nets stint.
It’s also a possibility that Simmons is the point guard and Dinwiddie starts alongside him. Dinwiddie thrived playing off the ball at times in Dallas with Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson. A lot will depend on how well Dinwiddie shoots from outside.