Let me preface this by saying I am not a “Ben Simmons hater.” In fact, I’ve always defended Ben. But after Wednesday night’s collapse to the Atlanta Hawks, even I am wondering how long can the Sixers continue to wait for a development that might never come? How long can the Sixers watch a max player refuse to shoot, and fail to knock down free throws?
Ben Simmons was NOT the only one who was at fault for Wednesday night’s game. But he may have been the most noticeable because the other team implemented a strategy to exploit something he couldn’t do, while most of the NBA can; hit foul shots. But Tobias Harris has been M.I.A. for 6 straight quarters. Your bench gave you virtually nothing. Embiid struggled in the 4th quarter. Korkmaz gave you little offensively and got cooked defensively. But Ben Simmons struggles are arguably the most noticeable because it seems like when the Sixers lose, Ben Simmons struggles.
Ben went 4 for 14 from the line. With the arena trying to will the ball into the hoop, he still struggled. And when you lose a game by 3 points those misses become amplified. And this is another problem that hasn’t been fixed since he entered the league. Here is a video of Ben addressing it from 2017.
And the issue is, it seems like its mental. It appears like Ben Simmons is struggling with the fact that people are exploiting a weakness in his game. And instead of rising to the challenge, hes crumbling. Because looking at his FT% throughout his career he has never been this bad. But just like his jump shot (or lack thereof) its as if Ben is terrified of trying and failing. And that is troubling. The Sixers have a max player who you have to seriously consider sitting on the bench because of “hack a Ben.”
There are SO many things Ben Simmons does on a basketball court that justify his pay. This is a guy that should have won defensive player of the year. But this is the playoffs. This is crunch time. And in the last 2 games Ben Simmons has taken a combined 2 shots in the second half. THAT IS INEXCUSABLE. Even the most ardent Ben Simmons defender has to admit that its troubling that Ben Simmons seems disinterested in contributing in the points column.
Which leads me to the question that I never considered until last night; How long will they wait? How long before the Sixers cut bait and trade Ben for picks or players or both? Because its hard to imagine, but in Doc Rivers first year as head coach Ben Simmons has regressed. Defensively he is the top of the league, but offensively he has regressed. Last year Simmons averaged 16.4 PPG, 7.8 APG, and 8 RPG. This season he averaged 14.3 PPG, 6.9 APG, and 7.2 RPG. In his 5th year (4th on the court) he took a step backwards.
Maybe it was the lack of a normal offseason. Maybe it was just an off year. But when Stephen A. Smith says Ben Simmons could be the second coming of Lebron if he added a jump shot, a lot of fans read that and say “I’ve been saying that for years.” Because we’ve seen spurts where Ben Simmons takes over a game. But they are so few and far between. Unfortunately we, more often then not, get a night like Wednesday.
For me, a Ben fan who has defended him every step of the way, I am giving him one more year. He needs to add an ACTUAL shooting coach. He needs to take the next step, like Joel Embiid took this season. He needs to stop being a spectator and take over games when Embiid is struggling (like he was in the 4th quarter.) He needs to improve. Because offensively he is the exact same player that he was when he entered the league.
The Sixers CAN NOT WIN with THIS version of Ben Simmons. They need him to step it up. And if he doesn’t, I am done.