Ever since his arrival as the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, Ben Simmons has constantly been talked about as a potential superstar. Drawing comparisons to LeBron James for his talent, Simmons is a 6’10” guard that can pass, dunk and defend. While an all around good player, Simmons’ poor shooting and low confidence is holding him back.
If a starter like Simmons is unable to shoot, a major component of the Philadelphia 76ers offensive game is taken away. Defenders can leave Simmons open with no hesitation, making it very difficult for drives to the basket. As a result of Simmons’ poor three-point accuracy, he is often removed from the game in the crucial final minutes, and is seen as a liability that hurts the team and the flow of their offense. While shooting weakness is not uncommon, Simmons’ lack of improvement is; his three-point average has stagnated at 14.7%. Conversely, players such as LeBron James have come into the NBA and steadily improved over time. James began with below-average shooting statistics, making 33.2% of shots from midrange and 29.0% from the three-point line. He explained that in the 2007 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs did not allow him to shoot except when wide open, which disrupted his rhythm. Because of this defensive scheme, LeBron developed a jump shot for all situations, making his all-around game lethal and becoming unguardable. Ever since then, James’ percentages have spiked, reaching a career high of 43.2% in the mid-range when he joined the Miami Heat. His ability to adapt helped him achieve his second championship in 2012, proof that shooting weakness does not necessarily spell the end of a player’s career, but rather indicates an opportunity for growth.
Simmons’ lack of confidence also became a critical issue for his team, culminating in an infamous play in Game 7 of the 2021 playoffs against the Hawks. With the 76ers down by two, and about four minutes left in the game, Simmons took control of the ball and muscled his way into the paint for an attempt at a wide open layup. Instead of shooting, he passed the ball to teammate Matisse Thybulle, who was unable to finish the play and lost the chance at tying the game. His team lost, the season was over, and the fans were outraged.
This play was just one example of Simmons’ struggles during the 76ers playoff run; he also missed forty-five free throws, which equated to just 34% made at the line. Simmons seemed reluctant to shoot anywhere on the floor late in games, which is a major issue for a starting point guard in the modern-day NBA. After losing the game, many questions were raised about Simmons’ lack of confidence, ability to shoot, and whether he should stay on the team.
So what is next for Ben Simmons? With his potential, developing a jump shot would make him a top-tier player in the NBA and dramatically increase his chances at winning a championship. Currently, his future with the 76ers is still up in the air, and some think he would benefit from a fresh start with another team. If Simmons is determined to work on his game and lands on a team that offers him the chance to improve, the young star may still be capable of making impressive strides in the game of basketball.