Everyone remembers Jonathon Simmons, right? He was the ultimate Spurs success story. After going undrafted out of Houston in the 2012 NBA Draft, he was drafted by the Sugar Land Legends of the American Basketball League for its inaugural season, which was limited to just 16 games due to financial concerns. He then paid $150 to try out for the Austin Torros (now the Austin Spurs), where he made the roster and eventually became the star of the team.
Despite his success in the G League, he still considered quitting and finding a regular job so he could better take care of his four daughters, but he chose to stick with basketball, and his persistence paid off. In 2015, he played for the Brooklyn Nets in the Orlando Summer League before the Spurs signed him for Las Vegas, and soon after he signed his first NBA contract with San Antonio. He would go on to play two seasons with the Spurs with a regular role off the bench, bringing some youth to a Spurs squad that was preparing to transition from the Big Three era.
His biggest game with the Spurs was when he scored 18 points in that surprising Game 6 blowout of the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2017 playoffs, where he filled in as a starter for an injured Kawhi Leonard. That summer, the Spurs initially tendered a qualifying offer of $1.6 million to Simmons, making him a restricted free agent, but it was soon withdrawn, and he signed with the Orlando Magic, on a three-year, $20 million contract. As Gregg Popovich would say, he went and made his money.
His best season as an NBA player came in 2017-18 with the Magic, where he averaged careers highs of 13.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists while starting 50 of the 69 games he played. While that wasn’t quite the end of his NBA career, it’s seemingly the last we heard of him. The next season, he returned to a bench role, and with it his numbers dropped back to what they were with the Spurs — roughly six points per game — before he was traded to the 76ers at the trade deadline. He was then traded to the Washington Wizards for the draft rights to Admiral Schoefield and waived in the summer of 2019, and that was very sudden and abrupt end of Simmons’ NBA career.
Since then, he returned to the G League in 2020, playing for the Santa Cruz Warriros, before heading overseas. He signed with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) for the 2021 season before playing for the Shanxi Loongs in 2022. I personally hadn’t thought about where he had been in quite a while until this showed up just a few weeks ago:
Who are the NLEX Road Warriros, you ask? Well, they’re part of the Philippine Basketball Association. Not that’s a surprise that the Philippines have a professional basketball league as the sport’s popularity has spread over the years, but it is hard to believe a former NBA player would end up there. China is more common nowadays for NBA players (Stephon Marbury is a prime example), and Simmons did return to the CBA on a more lucrative contact after just four games in the PBA, but ending up in a league that, from what I can tell, currently has zero other former NBA players of note, however briefly, still feels like quite the fall from four years ago.
Perhaps the saddest part is he recently pointed out on Twitter that he was available during the brief period that the Spurs had a roster opening between waiving Stanely Johnson and converting Charles Bassey’s contract from two-way to guaranteed.
So that is Jonathon Simmons’ story since leaving the Spurs. After one more big season, he quickly fell out of the league has been playing overseas since, unsurprisingly in China but a with surprising appearance in the Philippines. It seems he would like to make it back to the NBA someday, so hopefully he gets another chance sometime soon. At 33-years-old, he still has a window of few more years, but it’s quickly closing.
Are there any other former Spurs you’ve been wondering about or whose story should be told? Let me know in the comments below!