Making sense of how Ben Simmons' crucial NBA flaw developed

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Ben Simmons has to refine many aspects of his game after a dismal game seven performance against the Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ben Simmons has to refine many aspects of his game after a dismal game seven performance against the Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ben Simmons’ name has been in the news a lot lately. Dominating sports talk for his performance, or lack thereof, against the Hawks in the 76ers disappointing second-round NBA playoff loss, and now, for his apparent recusal from the Australian Men’s Basketball team for the Tokyo Olympics. 

So what does this all mean for Simmons and his place in the sporting landscape?

'NOBODY ELSE TO BLAME': Brutal truth emerges in Ben Simmons furore

'THIS IS INSANE': NBA world explodes over 'ridiculous' Game 7 drama

Since he stepped onto an NBA court for the first time in 2017, Simmons has been an impactful player. But, the one criticism that continues to dog him is the lack of shooting. 

It’s not just that Simmons is a poor shooter. It’s that he is an unwilling one as well. And this problem seems to be getting worse.

Across the 12 playoff games Simmons played this season, he averaged just 11.9 points per game and shot the fewest percentage of his shots outside of the paint than at any point in his playoff career. 

He also converted just 34% of his free throw attempts and was a big liability, as opposing teams would hack him in order for him to keep missing those shots.

Is Simmons a bad player? No, but it is clear that there is more to his performance than on-court physical skill. 

Simmons shot 61% from the free throw line this regular season, yet when the pressure was on, he psyched himself out. 

Just like his shooting on the floor, Simmons has such a lack of confidence in his shot, which I’m sure is fuelled partially by coaches, but also the consistent media narrative about him not being able to shoot. 

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.
This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

As a rookie, Simmons attempted 21.4% of his shots outside of 10 feet from the basket. This season, that was down to 9%, and in the playoffs it went down to just 2.2%. 

Simmons just hasn’t shown growth in his game over the years, and that’s an issue.

I refuse to believe that Simmons cannot score. Under no circumstance should he have passed up an open dunk in Game 7 against Atlanta a few days ago, but if not for a complete destruction of confidence. 

He will never be a dynamic scorer or shooter, but his complete inability and unwillingness to shoot is hampering his game and his team. He is still an elite defender and a great passer, but while his offense languishes, his impact is muted, despite elite advanced metrics. 

Ben Simmons must conquer negative NBA mindset

In 538’s RAPTOR metric, Simmons ranked in the 85th percentile for all players this season while Basketball Reference’s BPM has him in 93rd percentile. 

He is still a very good player, but perhaps a move from Philadelphia is what he needs to regain that confidence.

I was told a few years ago by someone with knowledge of the situation that Simmons’ reluctance to shoot comes from his belief that unless he can do it at an elite level, he helps his team more by getting it to someone else who has a better chance of making the shot. Almost a perfectionist mindset. 

Taking that ingrained mindset out of his makeup may be tough and it may be the job of a new coach and organisation in a couple of months.

Ben Simmons has been fiercely criticised in the NBA media following Philadelphia's brutal game five loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons has been fiercely criticised in the NBA media following Philadelphia's brutal game seven loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

His NBA career trajectory hangs in the balance and I am confident this tipping point offseason is the reason Simmons won’t play for the Boomers in July. 

He will receive a stream of negative backlash for his decision, but being a target of Australia’s media is nothing new for Simmons. 

It would be great to have him representing Australia, but I 100% understand his decision, which along with his performances, would be weighing heavily on his mind. 

For the sake of Simmons’ career, a lot needs to change in this offseason and despite his guaranteed contract for a lot of money, where his NBA career goes from here is very much up in the air.

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting