Ben Simmons is a basketball enigma for the Philadelphia 76ers. Highly decorated since his prep years, nothing has changed in the NBA. He’s still racking up All-Star bids and Defensive Player of the Year consideration. The downside has come on the offensive end.
The Sixers’ underwhelming end to the season was a nightmare. From Joel Embiid’s meniscus tear to Simmons’ struggles — it was atrocious. Simmons shot an abysmal 34.2 percent from the line.
He didn’t shoot any shots from long range in the post-season. He passed up a shot around the rim in the clutch. It was a plethora of basketball moments that a player would want deleted from the internet. Despite all of this, in addition to the trade noise, there is hope for Ben Simmons.
Simmons is more Andre Iguodala than LeBron James. It’s the latter model that’s clouded the perception of his growth since leaving LSU. He was suppose to be the next one. His one year off in the league turned up the intrigue to the max.
He came back with a vengeance and it looked like the Sixers were poised to be a contending fixture. The addition of Jimmy Butler in 2019 elevated expectations. But Butler could not find cohesion with the duo of Embiid and Simmons. It didn’t seem that the organization had a hold on the expectations for their two young stars.
The same doubts that Butler had about Simmons seem to be coming to fruition. His skill-set is at a standstill. He’s operating as a liability in some parts of the game.
More important than the bag of tricks is his confidence. No NBA player is a “mental midget”. Playing in front of thousands in the biggest moments is no small feat. Your mental resolve to stay disciplined has got to be otherworldly. Simmons has likely been the best of the best since he picked up a basketball. But at this point, he’s in the big leagues. As he sharpens his mind, he has to translate that to a dedication to expanding his game. He has to believe he can.
I’m watching Cam Payne and Seth Curry contribute in significant playoff minutes. There are parts of their game such as their shooting and ball-handling which have taken them from fringe guys to starters. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Simmons can’t add to his game. Whether it be a floater or jump-hook — things can be threaded into his repertoire.
The coaches and teammates can talk about it, but it’s up to Ben. While many question his heart, I’m confident that this is his defining moment. Ben Simmons isn’t dead — these dark times have probably given him more reason to be alive.