Ben Simmons is the big topic of discussion today after the Philadelphia 76ers' shocking loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the Easter Conference semifinals Sunday night. Simmons struggled mightily in the postseason and appeared to have no confidence in his shot. On Monday, we learned he plans to skip the Olympics to work on "skill development." And I think we all know what that means.
Simmons is passing up the chance to play for Australia at the Tokyo Games, and it's almost certainly so he can completely re-learn how to shoot the basketball. That's the skill he needs to develop and it's such a pressing issue that the Sixers already have a plan in place to fix it.
While he hit 55.7 percent of his shots from the field this year, most of those were at the rim. He shot 30 percent from beyond the 3-point line, but that came on 10 attempts. Yes, the point guard for the top seed in the Eastern Conference made three 3-pointers all season.
In the playoffs, Simmons' shot fell apart. He was 0-of-1 from 3-point range in 12 games, while also hitting only 34.2 percent of his free throws. He averaged 11.9 points 7.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 33.5 minutes per game, but just flat-out couldn't shoot, which made him far easier to guard.
Simmons is an incredibly skilled basketball player but these were his numbers during the fourth quarter of the seven games against the Hawks:
That is a staggering statistic.
The problem reached its zenith in the fourth quarter Sunday night when Simmons worked his way into a wide open dunk and refused to shoot the ball. Instead he passed it to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled. A sure two points turned into two free throws -- Thybulle missed the first and made the second.
It was a stunning play that perfectly illustrated just where Simmons' mind is at right now. He has no confidence in his ability to score the basketball.
Simmons is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and he can do so much on the court. But inability to hit 3-pointers has long been a topic of discussion. Those issues on deep balls appear to have bled into the rest of his shooting repertoire. It's a massive problem.
For his sake, this summer of "skill development" had better bear fruit.