Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons have both been named to ESPN’s list of the NBA’s Top 100 Players heading into training camp. The LA Lakers superstar was ranked No. 65 while the new Brooklyn Nets forward is No. 76.
NBA Insider Brian Windhorst agreed that the ranking between the two was correct, but provided an interesting take on the duo:
“I’m surprised that Ben Simmons is ranked so high after last year because of the amount of disaster last year not only off the pitch but also his injury.
“But if you ask me who I’d rather have (between Simmons and Westbrook), I’d rather have Ben Simmons. Number 1 he is younger, number 2 he is taller, number 3 he defends and I need a top defender to win at the top level.
The three points that ESPN’s lead writer explained as his reasons for taking Ben Simmons over Russell Westbrook have huge “TBDs” hanging over them. The former Philadelphia 76ers star hasn’t played since his infamous streak against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 playoffs.
Last season, Simmons sat out for various reasons until a back injury became the biggest obstacle to his return to basketball. He would be physically ready to return to action after undergoing back surgery this offseason.
But it remains to be seen whether he has yet overcome the trauma of that brutal playoff loss at the hands of the Hawks.
Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, had his worst season in more than a decade after being cast in a role he had never played before. The former MVP has always posted decent numbers, but his impact was clearly not what the LA Lakers hoped he would bring.
Windhorst, however, conceded that availability is sometimes the best ability:
“I know Russ will be there. He plays through everything, he plays hard and I certainly respect that.
The Brooklyn Nets and LA Lakers will need big seasons from Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook next season
The Brooklyn Nets and LA Lakers were two big favorites to win the NBA championship last season. Brooklyn was swept in the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, while LA failed to even make it to the qualifying tournament.
If both teams are to improve on their humiliating campaign last season, they will need Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook, respectively, to contribute significantly.
The Aussie doesn’t even have to be the goalscorer the fans want him to be. Most basketball analysts see him replicating Draymond Green’s role with the Golden State Warriors as his ticket to a bounce-back season.
With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Joe Harris and Patty Mills in the lineup, Simmons’ play and passing should shine. On the other end of the field, his size, length and versatility will be crucial to the Brooklyn Nets’ defensive plans.
Meanwhile, the LA Lakers have hired a new head coach in Darvin Ham to get the most out of Russell Westbrook. ‘Mr. Triple Double’ refused to impact the ball last season but vowed to be more responsible this time around.
For Westbrook to start his game, he may have to come off the bench as the LA Lakers’ best player outside of the top five. He should be allowed to play his usual style with the second unit and bring more balance to the team rotation.
How both players perform next season could determine the title aspirations of their respective teams.