,The Atlanta Hawks were up by three points in the final minutes of game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons caught a pass on the block and had the chance for a wide open dunk, only to pass it to Matisse Thybulle who got fouled. Thybulle, a 44% shooter from the foul line, went one of two and the 76ers would later lose the game and the series. As soon as the series ended, extensive criticism was aimed at Simmons who will be a big question mark for the team's future.
Ben Simmons is a very unique basketball player. At 6′ 11, he can bring the ball up court and run in offense, something that only Giannis Antetokounmpo can also do at that height. Simmons is also a great ball handler and is able to set up teammates in transition. On the defensive end, Simmons' long wingspan has made him a menace. He can defend different positions on the court and it shows in his accolades of back-to-back First Team All Defense selections. The one weakness in his game is his shooting, particularly from three, which is an important skill to have in today's game.
While Simmons can hide these problems in the regular season, they make him vulnerable in the playoffs. Come postseason time, teams will look to attack a player's weakness, and this was never more evident than in this year's playoffs. In the first round, the 76ers dispatched the Washington Wizards in five games, but in Washington's game 4 victory, they were able to expose Simmons' free throw problems by hacking him down the stretch. Although Philadelphia won the series, Simmons had lost his aggressiveness. Against the tougher Atlanta Hawks in the semifinals, Simmons would only score a combined 19 points in the final three games. His passed up dunk in game 7 perfectly represents his reluctance to attack the basket in fear of shooting free throws.
Although coach Doc Rivers noted that the team has a plan to improve Simmons' shooting, it might be too little too late. A 76ers fan and close friend of mine in Philadelphia recently gave me his perspective on the situation: he believes that time is up. As good a regular season player as Simmons is, he is very easy to out-coach during the playoffs. When asked about trade possibilities, he believes it's worth trading Simmons because for one, they could acquire a talented perimeter player such as CJ McCollum or Damien Lillard. In addition, they can get rid of Simmons' big contract to add other pieces around Joel Embiid. Simmons may be a highly talented player, but his shooting struggles are too much to overcome in order to win a championship.
If game 7 turns out to be Simmons' last game as a 76er it would symbolize a complicated tenure for Simmons. While his unique play style put the 76ers in a position to succeed, it also resulted in many playoff disappointments. Don't be surprised if that game turned out to be his final one.