The Philadelphia 76ers had a great opportunity to make a long playoff run this season. Philadelphia had the best record in the Eastern Conference and was clear favorites against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After three games, the 76ers led the series against Atlanta 2-1 and had an 18-point lead in Game 4 and a 26-point lead in Game 5, but they would lose both games and ultimately lose the series in 7.
In the series against Atlanta, Ben Simmons, who was first-team all-defense this season, struggled on the offensive end. The three-time All-Star averaged 9.8 points per game in the series and shot 15/45 from the free-throw line. Late in Game 7, he had an opportunity for a dunk, but it passed it off. Simmons took only four shots in Game 7 and finished the game 2/4 from the field with only five points.
According to former NBA player C.J. Watson, a recent guest of the Go4it podcast hosted by Paul Gant, it was tough to watch Simmons struggle against the Hawks.
“I think it’s just a lack of confidence,” Watson said. “Honestly, it’s hard to watch, but the NBA Is going into bigger guards, which is fine, but you gotta be able to score. If I were a coach or GM, I would want to pick players, who are all threats on the court, so I want five people who can shoot the ball, who can dribble, and who can be all interchangeable. Things of that nature.”
When asked if the 76ers can have success with Simmons if he does not shoot, Watson said the following.
“Without shooting, I don’t think so,” Watson said. “I think he has to develop a jump shot, at least. “It doesn’t have to be a three-point jump shot. It has to be at least a free-throw line jump shot, be able to hit a pull-up jumper, something of that nature, but he has to be able to score the ball. Like we said, he’s already an effective player. If he could add that one piece to his game, he could be even better. and help his team more.”
Philadelphia has an interesting decision to make with Simmons. Do they keep him and hope he grows his game on the offensive end, or do they trade him?
If it were up to Watson, Simmons would be traded.
“I think I have to break them up,” Watson said about the Embiid-Simmons pairing. “I think they need more shooting around a guy like Joel Emibiid. He definitely has to have shooting. They have to take the model like the Phoenix Suns have. If you have a big like that, who can score the ball, you have to put a lot of shooting around him, a lot of guys who don’t need the ball, a lot of defensive guys. I think that’s what they’re missing.”
You can win with the 24-year-old Simmons if you don’t have to rely on his scoring, so if Philly can find another scorer, they can win. However, if they bring the same team back next season, they will continue to run into the same problems unless Simmons grows his game on the offensive end.
Watson talks Simmons at the 10:20 and the 31:46 mark of the video: