Expect San Antonio Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons to bring the ‘juice’ even more this coming season. Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich was asked about the importance of the bench this coming season, which lost several key players in the offseason. Pop responded, “We’re depending more on people that we’ve been grooming, so to speak, like Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson to get more and more minutes for us.” Anderson’s ascension was expected, but it’s good to know that Simmons is a part of the plan too.
The 6’6” shooting guard’s explosive style of play helped him make a splash in his rookie season last year. Simmons mostly came off the bench with his high flying act, and averaged 6 points and 1.7 rebounds in under 15 minutes of play last season. His raw athleticism created highlight reel blocks and memorable dunks almost every time he took the floor.
Defenses seemed to figure him out later in the season, giving him space to shoot in order to contain his powerful drives. His shot was good at times, but largely inconsistent. Spurs shot doctor Chip Engelland may be able to help the 27-year old develop a better outside stroke. Simmons also needs to hone his decision making skills and avoid forcing drives when they aren’t there.
Simmons coined the phrase, the “Juice Unit” to describe the San Antonio reserves that were so vital last year. So often, the Spurs’ starters would stumble out of the gate, but the strong second unit would come in and dominate. Patty Mills used his speed, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw were excellent complimentary facilitators, and Boban Marjanovic was immaculate, and David West added an element of aggression. Simmons brought the juice.
Key components of the ‘Juice Unit’ have gone to other teams, replaced by athletic young bigs in Livio Jean-Charles and Dewayne Dedmon. Manu is rapidly approaching 40, and the Spurs will need help this year at backup shooting guard. Coach Pop’s comments make it clear that he wants Simmons to be more than just the energy guy off the bench. He will likely play more minutes and have expanded responsibilities this year.
Simmons’ journey to the NBA could just have easily ended with him cutting hair to support his daughters. His path from junior college to the University of Houston to a D-League tryout with the Austin Toros has led to the beginning of his second season with the Spurs. He seems ready to take on a bigger role, and it looks like Coach Popovich is going to give him a real opportunity. It should be exciting to see what he makes of it.