It’s been a fun season for the Philadelphia 76ers and its fans. The Sixers are currently tied for first place in the Eastern Conference at 36-17, have a top MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, and also own the second-ranked defense in the league. All that is a good jump from last year’s disappointing campaign.
Much of the talk recently, however, is about their other All-Star Ben Simmons. The 6’9 point guard is on a funk for a while now, and it’s been frustrating to witness the lack of urgency.
Since returning from the All-Star break three weeks ago, Simmons is just simply delivering one dud after another. It’s not like he’s slowly getting better too. Over his last nine games, his numbers have plummeted to a very underwhelming 10.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game on 44.4% shooting from the field and an appalling 55.8% clip from the free-throw line.
Last week, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer actually shared a stat that widened the context of this dreadful slump: Simmons is also struggling in close range close-range shots – his bread and butter!
Remember when the Washington Wizards’ play-by-play guy called Simmons “overrated?” That generated back-and-forth among fans, and it’s aging well – for now, at least.
“I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll get flak for it … I think Ben Simmons is one of, if the not the most, overrated players in the NBA … He’s gotten so much love and attention that people aren’t paying attention to what Tobias Harris is actually doing on the floor.”
I know. You don’t hear it from a color commentator often, let alone a play-by-play guy.
Nevertheless, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has always reiterated that when it comes to Ben’s scoring, he doesn’t care as much as others, noting that his PG is there to distribute the ball first:
Here’s what he told Sports Illustrated following last week’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves:
“I think Ben’s a facilitator … I think that’s what he does. I thought he did great early on, and after that, I thought I thought they all got tired. As the game went on, less and less driving happened. I think (the media) is way more concerned about him scoring than I am.”
It’s great that Simmons has his coach’s support, but don’t think that it’s echoing the locker room. The other guys may be starting to get a little more confused what this long slump is all about. The key thing is that it’s Embiid that has spoken out, his number one partner in crime.
A Philly sports writer tweeted this Sunday (Manila time), during the postgame interviews on the Sixers’ 117-93 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder:
We won’t assume that there’s beef or anything, but… yikes. It’ll be interesting to see how Simmons will respond, both in interviews and on the floor. Whatever happens, it’s likely to generate a boatload of material for the sports shows.
Should the Sixers be worried?
One can hope that Rivers’s offensive schemes can fix it in time, so we’ll have to wait and see. Having said that, though, let’s not forget that Simmons did have a couple of playoff clunkers in both of his trips.
In Game 2 of the 2018 East semis against the Boston Celtics, he famously scored one point on an unbelievable 0-for-4 shooting, which prevented Philly from stealing home court advantage. The following year, in the East semis opposite the Toronto Raptors, he only averaged 11.3 points and 4.9 assists per contest in a hard-fought series that went seven games.
Who knows how could different it would have been had Ben played more aggressively on offense?
The Sixers will visit the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. They’ll meet at 7:30 AM, Manila time.