The Philadelphia 76ers have been the talk of the NBA world since Wednesday night — and for all of the wrong reasons. Losing a 26-point lead in a playoff game as the No. 1 seed to drop the contest and go down 3-2 in a series will do that to you.
Although a number of things went wrong for Philly in the loss — Doc Rivers’ lack of adjustments and Joel Embiid’s late-game collapse immediately come to mind — Ben Simmons’ continued inability to make free throws may be the biggest topic for discussion. And rightfully so.
During the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Simmons — a backcourt player — has knocked down just 22 of his 67 free throw attempts. Hack-a-Ben was in full effect during Game 5 against the Hawks and it worked like a charm. Simmons missed 10 of his 14 free throw attempts in the game, which was a key factor in Atlanta’s unlikely comeback.
Simmons’ well-publicized shortfall from the charity stripe has given new life to talking points about various holes in his game. Moreover, it has added fuel to the fire of his detractors, some of whom have publicly questioned his place among the league’s elite.
In the wake of the Sixers loss, one well-known host and analyst was inspired to offer a particularly harsh commentary on Simmons’ superstardom.
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Russillo: Ben Simmons Isn’t a Superstar
The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo was one of a litany of sports pundits to weigh in on the Sixers’ loss. In doing so, he noted that Philly had been bad on both sides of the ball during the decisive fourth quarter. However, Russillo maintained that the team’s offensive possessions were particularly problematic.
At this juncture, he took aim at Simmons specifically, leaving little doubt about where he stands on him as a player.
“I think that’s still the fundamental problem to the Ben Simmons approach to it,” he said. “Not saying Ben Simmons is terrible, but like whenever — you know, it’s just one of those deals where you go, ‘Hey, is it OK if I say that there’s some doubts here?’ Is it OK to say it when you see it in real time?”
Russillo then proceeded to drop the hammer.
“The problem for Ben Simmons is that he’s talked about as if he’s a superstar in this league and he’s not. He’s really good at some things,” Russillo said.
“I think it’s OK to watch these games and watch what happens in the fourth quarter and go, ‘Yeah, maybe these are some of the anti-Ben Simmons arguments. And maybe they’re not terrible.”
He concluded by knocking Simmons’ defense of Hawks star Trae Young, who finished the game with 39 points.
A Superstar’s Resume
Without question, Simmons has a uniqueness to his game; an incredible skillset and natural talent in a number of areas while some others have left something to be desired. Regardless of one’s take on whether one side of that equation outweighs or detracts from the other, though, there’s no denying that he has a superstar resume.
In just four seasons played, Simmons has netted a Rookie of the Year award, multiple All-Star berths, two All-Defensive Team designations, an All-NBA selection and he was also a Defensive Player of the Year runner-up. All of this occurred after he was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Along the way, he has averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per contest. The number of players who have matched or exceeded that career line is exceedingly short — because only Simmons has managed those averages.