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Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of Ben Simmons after his team’s 103-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Sunday’s Game 7 of their second-round playoff series.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he told reporters when asked if Simmons could be the point guard of a championship winner.
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“You can’t have a guy on the court who’s afraid to shoot the basketball.”
Chuck on Ben Simmons’ shooting struggles in Game 7
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While Simmons is an excellent player who can lock down opponents defensively, battle for boards from the backcourt and facilitate for teammates, all of his flaws were on display at different points this series.
Atlanta essentially did not guard him away from the rim, which only served to clog the paint for Joel Embiid and others. He also shot a combined 15-of-45 (33.3 percent) from the free-throw line in the series, with some of the shots coming when the Hawks intentionally fouled him to put him on the line.
Simmons also passed up a number of shots during Game 7, including a dunk opportunity in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.
“Obviously, he struggled from the free-throw line, and that became a factor in this series,” Rivers continued. “There’s no doubt about that. I still believe in him, but we have work to do. We’re going to have to get in the gym, put a lot of work in, and go forward.”
His ineffectiveness on the offensive end undercut Embiid’s impressive play throughout the series, although Tobias Harris also struggled at times. Harris was 8-of-24 from the field in Game 7 and 2-of-11 from the field during a Game 5 loss that swung the series.
The question now is what the 76ers do with Simmons, who is not scheduled for free agency until after the 2024-25 season.
Perhaps they can trade him, but he also tanked his trade value on a national stage during this series and had his coach publicly saying he is unsure if Simmons can be a championship-level point guard.
That means the 76ers may have to run things back, and the Simmons-Embiid formula has not helped them advance past the second round yet.