The Philadelphia 76ers have again fallen well short of competing for an NBA title. However, this time around, the blame has shifted heavily toward Ben Simmons‘ offensive issues. It’s also created a strong reminder of the lesson Kobe Bryant tried to bestow upon the young star.
Ben Simmons’ offensive struggles contribute to the 76ers’ playoff exit
With the 76ers‘ season coming to another disappointing end, the attention has quickly shifted over to the franchise’s future.
This time around, the bulk of the criticism remains fixated on Simmons as he struggled offensively against the Atlanta Hawks. His scoring woes became quite apparent in the fourth quarter as he took only three shots in all seven periods combined.
Simmons did not take a single shot attempt in five fourth quarters, including the final four contests of the series. According to ESPN, he scored only six points on 6-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line in 34 minutes over the last four fourth quarters against the Hawks.
His scoring struggles extend far beyond his outside shooting as he has significant confidence problems. Simmons turned down mid-range shot attempts, and in many instances, he didn’t look for his shot. He’s defined himself as a pass-first player, but he doesn’t consistently aim to stay a scoring factor.
Those issues rang clear against the Hawks as he averaged 9.9 points on 6.4 shot attempts per contest. He scored in single digits in each of the last three games, capped off by notching only five points on 2-of-4 shooting in the Game 7 loss.
As the focus remains prominently on his shooting issues, it creates a strong reminder about a suggestion one NBA legend made for him.
Ben Simmons may be regretting not listening to Kobe Bryant years ago
Since Simmons entered the NBA, questions have followed his outside shooting as he’s neglected to expand that aspect of his game.
In May 2018, former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant discussed the 76ers star’s skillset shortcoming. The Hall of Famer gave an honest critique of Simmons’ game, voicing that the LSU product may live to regret not working on his jumper once his career is finished.
“He’s got to get a jump shot,’’ Bryant said via Slam. “It sounds stupid and all that, but I’m dead ass serious. Because if not, he will regret it when his career is over. You look at what he’s doing now without that is astonishing. Not imagine if you could shoot the ball, what does that open up for you?
“You don’t want to retire and look back and go, ‘Man if I just had a jump shot what would I have done?’ You don’t want that. I don’t care if you have to lock yourself in the gym for 10 hours a day. If this kid gets a jump shot, it’s a serious serious problem. The sky is the limit for him. He can be as good as he wants to be.”
Like Bryant, many others see the game-changing factor Simmons is as a passer and defender. It’s his lack of outside-shooting ability and free-throw-line troubles that keep him from taking the next step. Simmons responded to Bryant’s comments by stating that people tell him that in general and that he already knows that.
“That’s what people say, in general,” Simmons told Keith Pompey of Philly.com. “It’s not just the Kobe thing. And I know that. I’m trying to develop my game, trying to get better.”
Simmons is an extremely talented player, but he will cap his offensive ceiling until he develops an outside shooting touch.
76ers may explore trade talks
Simmons may have only wrapped up his fourth NBA campaign, but that’s been more than enough time to assess his overall talent.
The 76ers held high hopes of taking the next step forward toward NBA title contention this year, especially after earning the Eastern Conference’s top record. The 24-year-old is finishing the first year of his five-year, $177.2 million deal that runs through the 2024-25 campaign.
Following the Game 7 loss to the Hawks, head coach Doc Rivers created some doubt concerning Simmons’ future by stating he doesn’t know if the star can become a championship-level point guard. If Rivers is voicing that sentiment, it’s quite likely that others within the organization feel the same way.
All those factors won’t make it surprising to see the 76ers explore trade scenarios. Beyond that, it’s clear that Simmons has all eyes on him moving forward.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.