ben simmons
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN insider Brian Windhorst, Ben Simmons could be ready to make his Brooklyn Nets debut as early as Game 4 of the first round. Windhorst is indicating that there is growing optimism around Simmons.

This isn’t the first optimistic report regarding Simmons. Every time it looks like he’s making progress, there is a setback of some kind. At this point, when it comes to Simmons playing, I’ll believe it when I see it.

He can “walk around like Jordan” all he wants, but until he steps on the court these reports don’t really matter. That’s not to say that Windhorst’s reporting is inaccurate. Rather, it’s tough to trust any bit of optimism leaking out of the Simmons camp.

With that said, if Simmons is playing 5-on-5 by the end of the week, that’s a good sign for the Nets.

He can be a major factor for Brooklyn in the playoffs if he’s healthy. A closing lineup featuring Simmons at the five with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Bruce Brown, and one of the Curry/Dragic/Mills trio would be deadly. Essentially, it’s the lineup the Nets closed with against the Cavaliers with Simmons in for Nic Claxton.

Whether or not Simmons can develop chemistry with his new teammates has been a hot topic for the last few weeks. Stan Van Gundy talked about how difficult it’s going to be for him on the TNT broadcast the other night.

But those concerns might be a bit overblown. The Nets don’t need Simmons to be an offensive weapon — KD and Kyrie already have that covered. Instead, they need Simmons to defend, rebound, and push the ball in transition. That’s when he’s at his best. Whatever he can give them on offense is gravy.

Brooklyn is in for a dogfight in the first round. They beat the Boston Celtics to a pulp last year, but this is a different Boston squad. If the optimism is more than a mirage this time, Simmons could turn the tide in this series.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.