Philadelphia 76ers: The fatal flaw of Ben Simmons’ game

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

As the odds-on favorite to win the 2018 Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons is an ascending NBA Superstar, but his fatal flaw may haunt the Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons and LeBron James, the player he is most often compared to, have a lot in common.

Both measure in at at least 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, are represented by Klutch Sports Group and have the position flexibility to be matchup nightmares across the court 1-5, but one thing James can do, but Simmons can’t, is take over a game when his team needs him to most.

In the Cleveland Cavaliers Game 1 series debut against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre, with the game on the line, King James put his team on his back and basically willed the game into overtime.

More from Philadelphia 76ers

Though he did miss five of the six free throws he attempted in the game, and seven of his eight three-pointers, James remained unflinching with the clock winding down, and scored the Cav’s final four points to take the game into overtime, in route to a 113-112 Cleveland victory.

Oh yeah, and he did so while playing 47 minutes.

When you compare the King’s performance to that of the Fresh Prince, it becomes incredibly clear that while they may have similar physical features, they are far from the same player in 2018.

In the Sixers’ Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics, Simmons knocked down six of his 11 shots both from the field and from the free throw line and finished out the game with 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in 42 minutes of action. While this is a pretty impressive stat line for a 21-year-old rookie in only his sixth game of playoff basketball, when his team needed him most, down by 10 with five minutes to go, Simmons didn’t make a single shot from the field and missed three of his final six free throw attempts from the line.

While the Sixers’ loss can’t be placed on his shoulders alone, as the team’s inability to stick on the pick and roll and 19.2 shooting percentage from three-point range truly sealed their fate, but with the game on the line, and the ball in his hands, Simmons failed to take over the game.

Maybe chock it up to his inability to knock down a jump shot, let alone one from three-point range, but at this point in his very young NBA career when Simmons starts to drive at the basket or gets the ball in his hands on the fast break, there’s very little diversity as to how the play will end.

Unlike, say, Dwyane Wade, who’s one of the most diverse offensive players in the entire league, Simmons is an incredibly one-dimensional scorer in iso situations, and this, unfortunately, really limits his ability to take a game over in the same way that James has over the last decade.

Though far from a prolific shooter, James’ 35 shooting percentage from three-point range and 54 shooting percentage from the field in 2017-2018 insured that opposing players had to respect his ability to pull up for a jumper, or take an open three at the top of the key, and this optionality forced defenders to play him honest. By comparison, when Simmons takes the ball at the top of the key, opposing defenders can play him 10 feet off the ball and not have to worry, as he missed all 11 of his three-point shot attempts this season, or simply foul the 56 percent free throw shooter on the drive and make him earn his points at the line.

Related Story: 3 frustrating factors from the Sixers Game 1 loss to the Celtics

Don’t get me wrong, Simmons brings incredible value to a team like the 76ers, as he’s already ranked second in franchise history in triple-doubles with 11, and is ranked among the best point guards in the league by ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, but his inability to knock down an outside shot really limits his offensive game in a way that very seldom leads to success in the NBA long-term.

Just ask Michael Carter-Williams, the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year who was jettisoned from South Philly by the organization’s previous regime because he only knocked down 26 percent of his three-point shots over his year and a half tenure with the team.

Now I’m not saying that Simons is going to have played for four different teams by the time he’s 26 like MCW has, as he’s already a better player now than Carter-Williams will ever be and I’m sure many people in the City of Brotherly Love would love to see the number 25 hanging from the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center someday, but what’s going to separate Simmons from a perennial All-Star game candidate to a player destined for the Hall of Fame will be his ability to develop a convincing jump shot.

Next: What’s happened to Robert Covington?

Though he obviously won’t be able to do so in time for the Philadelphia 76ers Game 2 bout against the Boston Celtics on May 3rd at 8:30 est, if Ben Simmons is ever going to surpass LeBron James and become the best player in the NBA, with the ability to singlehandedly take over a game on his own, he’s going to need to develop a more complex offensive game.