Ben Simmons has made it no secret what position he will play for the Brooklyn Nets in 2023-24. The three-time All-Star continuously reiterated that he wants to be Brooklyn's point guard, indicating that the Nets' coaching staff is on board.
Head coach Jacque Vaughn spoke to the media for the first time since Summer League Tuesday and said he has an “agreement” with Simmons that the former number one pick will open the year at point guard:
“I would use the word ‘agreement’ more so than ‘commitment,’” Vaughn said. “The agreement is if he’s playing at a consistent and high level then I think our pictures look exactly the same. I think you can kind of put it in that category.”
Jacque Vaughn said he and Ben Simmons have an "agreement" that Simmons will play point guard to open the year:
"I would use the word agreement more so than commitment. The agreement is if he's playing at a consistently high level then I think our pictures look exactly the same." pic.twitter.com/K6tmS2s39h
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) September 26, 2023
Simmons began the 2022-23 season at point guard but was quickly moved to a backup center role. The first-year Net failed to show the downhill aggressiveness of his Philadelphia days while battling injuries, allowing defenders to sag off him and clog the paint with Nic Claxton at center.
It took just two games for Vaughn to move away from Simmons at point guard after taking over for Steve Nash last year. Despite this, the head coach said he's committed to playing Simmons at the position alongside Claxton in 2023-24. However, that commitment is contingent on the Aussie consistently attacking opposing defenses.
“If Ben is able to play consistently in a certain way then there's no doubt that he should have the basketball in his hands,” he said. “It’s probably (that) you have to guard him with the basketball on his hands. And so now we have to incorporate how we're going to have Nic Claxton on the floor with him at the same time. They both will be on the floor. I talked about turning defense to offense so they both can provide some defensive leverage that we just didn't have in the past. The rebounding piece also is also incorporated into that.”
Jacque Vaughn says Ben Simmons will have the ball in his hands "if he is able to play in a certain way." He then expands to say:
"It's probably… you have to guard him with the basketball on his hands."
That's really what it comes down to. If Simmons can play with a downhill… pic.twitter.com/DyxvY4hQfX
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) September 26, 2023
Spacing remains a concern for a starting unit featuring Simmons and Claxton. Factor in Spencer Dinwiddie, who shot 28.9 percent from three with the Nets last season, as Simmons' backcourt mate, and the lineup's offensive viability is very much in question.
There's reason for optimism that Dinwiddie can improve alongside Simmons. He attempted 68 percent of his threes with Brooklyn last season off the dribble while dominating the team's ball-handling responsibilities. Dinwiddie's three-point numbers have historically been better off the catch than the dribble, as was evident in his 40.4 percent mark from deep over 76 appearances alongside Luka Doncic in Dallas.
“Spencer, when he was playing with Luka, he did a lot of catch-and-shoot. Ben has the ability to have the basketball in his hands and just historically Spencer is a better catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter than he is off the bounce,” Vaughn said. “So that 28 percent a lot of times you saw with us ended up being switch, iso, off the bounce, that's a shot that you would want him to take. He's going to get better at making that shot, but also we're going to put him in a position where he's taking more catch-and-shoots. That would put him on the court with Ben at times.”
Vaughn also recognized the need for intense detail in how the team positions its shooters with Simmons and Claxton on the floor:
“It makes us a more detailed team, and so we have to be greedy with our spacing,” he said. “We have to be extremely detailed and poised in giving guys the ability to drive the basketball. So you might have to be a foot to the right, where you were able to be a foot to the left previously. So, detailed in our organization on the offensive end on the floor.”
Simmons' position as Brooklyn's starting point guard offers more questions than answers based on what we saw last season. However, the Nets expect a revitalized version of the former Rookie of the Year in 2023-24. Simmons has raved about his health following an offseason of training in Miami, calling his body “the strongest it's been” since he joined Brooklyn.
Will that newfound health translate into the forceful, downhill style of his Philadelphia days? And if so, is that enough to quell the spacing concerns alongside Claxton and Dinwiddie? It won't be long before both Simmons and Vaughn reveal those answers.