- Mamadou Tall
Ben Simmons is not that Guy
What’s understood doesn’t have to be explained. Ben Simmons is not the guy he was publicized to be, and I’m not surprised.
The number one seed Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs by the fifth seed Atlanta Hawks in seven games. Again the 76ers came up short of fulfilling their potential since the beginning of this whole “Trust the Process” thing started. Four consecutive years of the same story. History constantly repeating itself, and luckily it only took everyone four years to open their eyes.
Eyes are open now, and everyone sees the reason of the 76ers’ lack of postseason success. Ben Simmons. I mean it couldn’t be more obvious who the problem was. After seeing his performance in the 2021 playoffs, everyone is left asking how have things not changed? He can’t shoot the ball. Never could, never did. Everyone banked on his potential and his improvement, and look where we are. Five years in the league, and not only is Simmons not shooting the ball, the man giving up easy layups to avoid shooting free throws.
Ben Simmons was drafted with the number one pick in 2016 by the Philadelphia 76ers. Coming into the league he had all the hype around him. He was the number one player in high school and considered the number one player during his lone season in college. Watch his high school mixtapes and you saw the dominance early. He was just better and bigger than everyone else. What truly set him apart was the fact he was a 6'10 point guard. Comparisons to the great Magic Johnson and Lebron James would soon follow as he made the leap to college basketball. Simmons took his talents to the Louisiana State University, and I wish I could say a lot more other than that but that’s all it was. The number one high school player decided to attend LSU and averaged 19 points, 5 assists, 12 rebounds, and 2 steals in 33 games.
Just purely looking at numbers, those are top draft pick numbers. While he put up great box score numbers the early warning signs were still there. He only attempted three 3-pointers the whole season and made one, and he shot an abysmal 67% from the free-throw line. Not to mention his team didn’t even qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Through all of this, fans, scouts, and experts all saw one thing; potential.
Potential got him drafted as the first pick in a draft that included Jamal Murray, Brandon Ingram, Damontas Sabonis, Jaylyn Brown, and Brandon Ingram. Hindsight is 20/20. No one envisioned Simmons scoring 5 points in a Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks. No one saw Simmons having career playoff averages of 14 points, 8 rebounds, 7.5 assists while shooting 0% from three and 57% from free-throw. The floor general can’t shoot and won’t shoot, hurting the whole team’s offense. Most specifically, Embiid. Health has been a problem for Embiid throughout his career, and every moment he’s healthy should be a chance to contend for a championship. Ben Simmons running the offense for the 76ers stops those hopes of contention right in its tracks.
In an alternate universe where Simmons had a jump shot, things would be different. Shit, the 76ers could have messed around and won a championship already. We live in reality though. The past three years I’ve been hearing is, “he’s going to put some shots up in the off-season and start shooting more.” At what point do we accept that maybe the work hasn’t been put in or he doesn’t trust the work. Whatever it is, Philly’s championship window is slowly closing; time is ticking.
What do the 76ers do from this point on? Trade Simmons? Sounds good, but for what? For who? Simmons’ trade value is at an all-time low. It’s tough seeing most teams pick up the annual $35 million that Simmons is expected to get within the next four years. 76ers general manager, Elton Brand, has some finessing to do. Same way Elton Brand should be making phone calls and finessing, Ben Simmons needs to be in the gym progressing. His shot needs work. The first point of improvement should be the hand he uses to shoot the ball. Simmons is obviously a right-handed dominant player yet he insists on shooting with his left hand. Next on the agenda should be him being taken off the ball more often and playing as a power forward since he refuses to shoot. Having him cutting to the basket and receiving a pass is the best hope anyone has with immediate change. Imagine Simmons cutting off the wing and getting a pass in a position where he can get a shot at the basket or use his vision to find a better shot for his teammates.
Ben Simmons has always had the privilege of being considered that number one guy. Glimpses of what could be kept him safe and untouchable in the NBA. Although his upside is something to behold, Simmons has been the same player since he entered the league 5 years ago.
Now with almost everyone doubting him (including myself) what will Simmons do? These are the moments that make NBA stars into superstars. In 2011, LeBron's meltdown against the Dallas Mavericks changed his career for the better. When Kobe lost to the Celtics in 2008, he came back with a different animal. If Simmons is everything everyone thought he was will see a different player next season, a more aggressive player at least.
When even your own coach doesn’t know if you could be a championship point guard, I think it’s time to look at yourself in the mirror. It seems like he hasn’t made any improvements in his game offensively since he entered the league. It’s clear that Simmons has been coasting throughout his career, and that’s a testament to how gifted he is. Talent is nice enough for him to stick around, but work plus talent would put Simmons in the realm of the league’s top five players.
At the lowest point of his career, Simmons must dig himself out and answer the following questions with his work ethic:
Will this make or break Simmons?
Will he still be a 76er after this season?
Will he ever be able to shoot free throws?
Will 76ers ever win a championship with Simmons as their second-best player?
The videos of Simmons shooting and hitting jump shots in open gyms does nothing for me or Philly fans. His cruising throughout the regular season and winning is all fun and games. The NBA’s regular season and off-season don’t mean a thing if you aren’t producing in the playoffs. He may have seemed like that guy in the past, but I’m telling you as of right now he is not.