The point guard position has been a black-hole for this Grizzlies this season.
Mike Conley wasn’t playing great, and he’s been on the mend since mid-November trying to heal up an injured Achilles. Neither Mario Chalmers nor Andrew Harrison have stepped up their play in Mike’s absence, although both have had their moments. Tyreke Evans has been great for the Grizzlies this season, but I refuse to consider him as a true point guard. He’s more of a forward who is tasked with bringing the ball up the court and scoring because the Grizzlies don’t have anyone else who can do that.
Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they have a young prospect down in Southaven who is balling out and deserves a chance to prove his worth.
Kobi Simmons got his first opportunity to show his game on Saturday against the Celtics and although the box score doesn’t jump out at you, he had a pretty solid game. He didn’t score and grabbed 2 rebounds a block, but he was on the court and effective when the Grizzlies started their second quarter comeback. For those +/- folks out there, he was a +4 while Mario Chalmers was a -16. It’s hard to take much away from one game, especially with single-game +/-, so I’m going to dive into what I’ve seen Kobi do down in Southaven.
For the year, Simmons is averaging 16.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game for the Hustle. He’s shooting 46% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc. Kobi isn’t perfect by any means. He averages 2.7 turnovers per game and 3.1 fouls, but both are to be expected from a 20 year old. What Kobi does a great job of is being able to take games over, at least at the G-League level. Most recently in the Hustle’s loss to the OKC Blue, the Hustle were down 20 heading into the 4th before Kobi Simmons went off to score 13 points to lead the Hustle to a comeback that fell just 4 points short. Don’t just take my word for it, look at some of his highlights.
He has a smooth jumper, the ability to drive to the basket and finish tough layups, the court vision and ability to make the right pass and can even make the mid-range floater that Conley excels at. The numbers don’t lie and neither does the film, Kobi Simmons can ball.
The main reason I’m so high on Kobi is his style of play. He can do a little bit of everything and plays at the pace the league is at. He’s great at getting out in transition and finishing at the rim or dishing it to a teammate for the fast-break basket. Sure, Kobi’s speed may not make him the best point guard to play alongside Marc Gasol, but the Simmons/Evans/Dillon Brooks/Jarell Martin/Deyonta Davis lineup in the second quarter played fast and brought the Grizzlies back against the Celtics.
The Grizzlies announced yesterday that Conley will be out at least another two weeks. Going with that timeline, the Grizzlies have 7 or more games to give Kobi minutes going into 2018 before Conley potentially returns. Once Conley comes back there won’t be room for Rio, Drew and Kobi to get minutes, with Kobi likely being sent back down to the G-League. It would benefit the Grizzlies greatly to see what they have in Simmons with minutes available. Surely he can’t be as bad as what we’ve seen so far this season.
Chalmers, Harrison (team option), and Simmons can all be free agents next summer. With limited cap space, the Grizzlies won’t be able to go out and sign a better backup point guard. The Grizzlies should use this time before Conley returns as a means of figuring out who they want in their rotation for the rest of this season but mainly for going into next season. Chalmers and Harrison have had their chance and haven’t taken advantage. If given the opportunity, Kobi may not take advantage of it and could easily be just as frustrating as Chalmers and Harrison. Kobi could also prove he belongs in this league and could be the potential point guard of the Grizzlies post-Conley.
However, no one will know if Kobi isn’t given that opportunity. Simmons has mostly dominated lesser competition, it’s time to see how he stacks up against the big leagues. At 9-21, what do the Grizzlies have to lose? It’s Kobi time.