Ben Simmons' offensive woes have kept the 76ers from achieving their full potential.
During the early to mid-2010s, the Philadelphia 76ers went through a strenuous rebuild that now goes by "The Process." The phrase "Trust The Process" was a battling cry for the 76ers during their rebuild years and it remains one of Joel Embiid's favorite things to say. Now, the 76ers are one of the best teams in the NBA, boasting the talents of future MVP winner Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons.
Ever since being drafted first overall by the 76ers in 2016, there have been a ton of expectations placed on Simmons, and rightfully so. After all, he's a 6'11" point guard who can bully people in the paint while delivering shutdown defense on the opposite end of the floor. In fact, a few years ago, there were people saying that he was a better player than Embiid and that the 76ers should build the team around him.
Embiid and Simmons should theoretically be one of the best duos in the entire NBA. After all, Embiid was a finalist for the MVP award while Simmons was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this would be a recipe for success. This is especially true when you consider how the 76ers finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and heading into the playoffs, they were one of the favorites to win it all. Unfortunately, if there is anything the playoffs have proven thus far, it's that Simmons is an inconsistent offensive liability who has cost his team multiple games in the second round.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
Simply put, Simmons is a point guard and he can't shoot the ball. Throughout the history of the NBA, there have been plenty of legendary bigs who scored a lot of points, but struggled when it came to their jump shots. Simmons is an interesting case because as a point guard, you are expected to be able to shoot three-pointers and mid-range jumpers. If you've followed Simmons' career then you know how pitiful his three-point shooting has been over the years. In fact, every single summer, Simmons takes to social media to show off all the work he's doing when it comes to his shooting, but as soon as the season starts, he goes back to his old ways. When Simmons is open for a three, he typically ends up passing the ball or running into the lane for a layup. It has gotten to the point where teams will leave him wide open because they know he's not going to make the shot.
Throughout the regular season, these shooting woes weren't a cause for concern because his defensive game was on a completely different level. Simmons was shutting down some of the best players in the entire league and other superstars were taking notice. In the middle of the season, Simmons declared himself the best defender in the NBA -- and no one was really arguing with him about it. At the time of writing this, the Sixers were down 3-2 to the Hawks, although they eventually won Game 6 to propel themselves to a Game 7. Despite this, Simmons only had 6 points, and it was yet another dire offensive performance, where he could be seen air balling layups.
Simmons was averaging 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 8.4 assists in five games against the Hawks, and for a supposed star of his caliber, this simply isn't good enough. In the three games that the Hawks have won in this series, they've only had margins of victory of four points or less. Had Simmons delivered more of an effort on the offensive end, this series could have been a sweep by now. Instead, there are no guarantees that the Sixers move on.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
Of course, it's unfair to put all of the blame on Simmons -- though one look at his free throw numbers will make you reconsider his status as one of the best players in the Eastern Conference. In five games, Simmons has taken 39 free throws and has only made 12 of them. A 30.8 success rate. During the regular season, Simmons was shooting at a 60 percent clip. If Simmons had made 60 percent of his shots throughout the series, he would have an extra 12 -- more than enough to overcome the 76ers' combined margin of defeat. These abysmal shooting performances have left Sixers fans confused, and quite frankly, disappointed. Simmons' free throws are so bad that the Hawks have started treating him like Shaq. "Hack-a-Ben" has been the Hawks' favorite defensive strategy over the last few games and it's turned Simmons into a massive liability.
Other star players like Giannis Antetokounmpo have also run into some shooting woes in the playoffs, although the key difference is Giannis can go 0-10 from the line and still score 30 points. As for Simmons, his stat line is consistently in triple-single territory up until the fourth quarter. For years, Simmons has been touted as the league's next best superstar, and if things continue down this path, he's never going to get there.
Perhaps one of the most egregious and overly-regurgitated takes about Simmons is that he is "LeBron James without a jump shot." While some may find that to be an apt comparison, LeBron without a jump shot isn't exactly a championship-winning player. Not to mention, you can't just wake up one day and magically have a jump shot. This is something that Simmons will have to fix over the course of a few years, and it remains to be seen if the Sixers have the patience to wait that long. When you play point guard, there are some skills you absolutely need to possess and Simmons is missing one of the biggest ones.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
As far as his defensive play is concerned, he is certainly elite and if he ever gets his jump shot in order, he will indisputably be among the league's best. At the moment, his shooting ability is a massive hypothetical. Unless he starts taking over games, the 76ers could very well find themselves being the victims of early playoff exits for years.
With Game 7 against the Hawks going down on Sunday, Simmons might have the game of his life and make me look like an idiot. He could even have the run of his life and lead the 76ers to an NBA title. If that happens, I will be the first to congratulate him. For now, though, it's not looking good.