Ben Simmons has had a rough few months. After a total offensive implosion during the Philadelphia 76ers series loss to the Atlanta Hawks, he has reportedly requested a trade, though so far the Sixers have not found a match.
Philly would likely consider a number of deals for Simmons, but they aren’t going to give away the former No. 1 pick. He remains a young, talented player with high upside, and if nothing else, he’s an elite defender.
His offense is a total mystery though. Simmons has remarkable court vision and passing ability for someone the size of a modern power forward. His complete lack of shooting has been a big issue throughout his career, and somehow got worse in the playoffs this year. He shot just 34.2-percent from the free throw line, well below his already sub-standard 59.7-percent career regular season mark.
Shaquille O’Neal certainly isn’t one to criticize another player’s free throw shooting. However, Shaq was one of the most dominant offensive players in league history during his prime. In an interview with CBS Sports Radio, the Turner NBA Analyst says he doesn’t believe Ben Simmons is putting the work in to be great.
— CBS Sports Radio (@CBSSportsRadio) September 8, 2021
“I have no idea what he’s doing, but I know when I look at the finished product, we can make the assumption that you’re not putting in the work,” Shaq said.
“Through the history of the game, people who put in the work, when you see the product, you say “Oh, okay, he’s been working.’ I don’t want to see Instagrams of you making 15-, 19-footers, then when you’re down one, you dribble under the basket when you have a guy that’s 5-foot-1 on you to pass to someone else because you’re scared to go to the line.”
Shaq addressed the elephant in the room about his own free throw shooting. He doesn’t think the comparison is fair, and compared Simmons to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had his own struggles at the line this postseason. He still dominated en route to an NBA Championship. He doesn’t see that same mindset within Simmons, and believes that he’s letting the mental struggles at the free throw line impact the rest of his offensive game.
“Look, I was a terrible free throw shooter. But you know what? I didn’t give a damn. You know why? I know for a fact one of three things is going to happen: you make it, you miss it, or you shoot an airball. But forget all that, I only had one thing on my mind, and that was to dominate. And Ben has the ability to dominate games.
“Giannis is not a great free throw shooter, but they won a championship because he dominated. He was aggressive, he was getting people in foul trouble, he was going to the hole. He didn’t care how many free throws he shot. How many times did you see him shoot air balls in a playoff game and the crowd goes crazy? Did that make him stop going to the basket? No.”
Physically, few players in the league can match what Ben Simmons brings to the table, but his passivity in that Hawks series was very notable and disconcerting.