Ben Simmons has the potential to become a perennial superstar for the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA, has exceptional court vision and playmaking ability, and can finish equally with both hands around the rim.
The only problem? He can’t shoot. Or rather, he simply refuses to do so.
Simmons‘ inability to shoot the basketball and space the floor doomed the Sixers in their 4-3 series loss to the Atlanta Hawks, and now his future with the franchise is in serious doubt. The polarizing “point guard” has no chance of ever reaching his full potential if he doesn’t figure out how to turn his jumper into just a moderate threat, and the solution might be staring him right in the face.
Ben Simmons’ shooting woes hit a new low
Simmons has been a popular punchline on NBA Twitter for most of his pro career, but the slander reached new heights after the Sixers lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on their home court Sunday night. All throughout the series, Simmons was barely a factor on the offensive end. He acted as a black hole the Hawks didn’t even have to pay attention to in the half-court, and it ultimately led to Philadelphia’s downfall.
But the various stats regarding Simmons’ offensive performance this postseason are even more embarrassing than the actual game tape. Buckle up.
Ben Simmons shot 25-of-73 from the free-throw line in this year’s playoffs. That’s good for 34.2%, which is the worst qualified mark in NBA history for a single postseason.
Simmons averaged just 6.4 shot attempts per game against the Hawks. He scored only 9.8 points per game despite shooting 50% or better in all but one game of the series.
Simmons attempted three total shots in the fourth quarter across all seven games against Atlanta. He didn’t attempt a single fourth-quarter shot over the last four games of the series.
Enough is enough. It’s time for Simmons to make a drastic change.
Is Simmons a natural righty?
Simmons has attempted jumpers with his left hand ever since making his NBA debut four years ago, but there’s always been something peculiar about his shot. Whenever the 24-year-old gets anywhere near the rim, he typically throws up shot attempts with his right hand instead. He clearly has a much softer touch with his right, so he uses his off-hand for layups, dunks, hook shots, and floaters in the paint.
In the 12 games he played this postseason, Simmons attempted 67 shots with his right hand, 19 using both hands at once, and just nine with his left hand, per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
What are we doing here? Simmons is a natural righty, and he’s even admitted as much in the past.
In 2016, Simmons told Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News that he grew up using his right hand, but that his father was insistent on him developing a left-handed shot and handle on the court.
“I think I was supposed to be right-handed,” he said. “It’s all natural now.”
Even Simmons’ former teammates agree he’s a better shooter with his right hand. JJ Redick, who played on the Sixers with Simmons for two seasons, recently said on his The Old Man and the Three podcast that he’s approached both Simmons and DeAndre Jordan about switching to righty.
“I’ve seen them shoot right-handed. It’s better form right-handed,” Redick said. “They do everything else right-handed, I don’t understand why you’re shooting a basketball left-handed.”
Neither do we, JJ. Neither do we.
An uncertain future with the Sixers
Simmons already faces an uncertain future in Philadelphia after a disastrous 2021 postseason, but his fate was all but sealed by Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers after the 76ers’ embarrassing Game 7 loss.
“I’ll be honest, I thought the turning point was when we, I don’t know how to say it, when we had an open shot and we made one free throw.” the Sixers center said after the game, referring to the play in which Simmons passed up an open dunk for a pass into traffic down the stretch of the game.
When Rivers was asked in his postgame press conference whether Simmons can be the point guard of a championship roster, he couldn’t even fake an optimistic response.
“I don’t know the answer to that question right now,” he said.
The Simmons era in Philly is unraveling at a rapid pace. It’s past time for the troubled star to switch back to his right hand.
Hey, it can’t get any worse, right?
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference