Not many people heard of a guy named Jonathan Simmons until Tuesday night.
The 27-year-old guard got the opportunity to shine in San Antonio’s shock 129-100 win over Golden State, and his block on Steph Curry put him on the NBA map. Simmons also landed a clean dunk on JaVale McGee, the 7-foot center with a wingspan like a Pterodactyl.
His dunk was nice enough to even get Kawhi Leonard out of his seat. Other than that filthy block and dunk, Simmons put up 20 points. I don’t know how Popovich finds them, but he’s definitely got a talent for fitting new players into the Spurs style of play.
EMPHATIC CHERRY ON TOP IN FRONT OF A HALF-EMPTY ORACLE https://t.co/GGIaM4SOG9
— Around The League™ (@RTSportsTalk) October 26, 2016
The Houston product stands at 6’6 and fits in well with the already size-happy Spurs team. Simmons has had a rocky history in professional basketball and has teetered on the brink of being jettisoned from the NBA. He just so happened to play the best game of his career against what many people are calling the best team in the NBA, in front of a massive TV audience, so hopefully he can capitalize on the momentum.
This seems like a win-win situation for both the Spurs and Simmons, as Simmons once spent $150 to try out for the Austin Spurs, the San Antonio Spurs’ D-League affiliate. After earning his spot on the D-League, he had a $20,000 a year salary. Now he’s got a $1.4 million, two-year contract with the NBA heavyweight Spurs, which is still a pretty sweet deal to play basketball for money.
If you’re the Spurs organization, you may have just dug up a gem. It’s games like this that prove that a player can really fit in with the team, and the Spurs are in that limbo of missing the recently retired Tim Duncan and trying to move forward. If Simmons can consistently put up 12-15 points a game, his $874,636 salary for the 2016-17 year is a bargain. Compare that to a random teammate like David Lee, who is getting $1,551,659 to help off the bench, or DeWayne Dedmon, who is getting $2,898,000 off the bench as well.
Simmons has a qualifying offer of $1,214,746 for 2017-18, and nothing on the horizon after that. This is the season that the rest of Simmons career could depend on, and this classic D-League-to-potential-NBA-starter-to-potential-All-Star story is starting to take shape.
A few months back, I wrote an article talking about how Golden State with Kevin Durant is now in the crosshairs for every other player in the NBA. If you’re coming out of the D-League and you’ve got someone like Steph Curry running down on a fast break, you’re going to try to run that ball down as fast as you possibly can. A block like that will get you the replays, highlight reels, and shout-outs for the next week, and that can be great for your career.
Playing for the Spurs under Popovich is like having a blue-chip company on your résumé. It is recognizable everywhere, and luckily for Simmons he is generating some buzz on his own. It won’t be easy for him to become a starter on the Spurs because he would have to replace anyone from Leonard to Manu Ginobili, and that’s just not likely to happen.
If Pop will let him, Jonathan Simmons will turn into a very good player, a near-star. Explosive ability. Fearless.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 26, 2016
Simmons’ best bet is to get as much playing time as possible while Danny Green is still out with injury and start racking up some player equity early on in the season. He’s got three weeks, so let’s see what he can accomplish in that time frame…he’s off to one hell of a start.