Philadelphia 76ers: Is Ben Simmons holding back offense?

Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ere have, for the most part, have been a disappointment due to a lack of spacing and the lack of progression from Ben Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 24-14 record, performing well under expectations for a team that many believed to be a title contender in the summer.

One of the main issues with this team has been the spacing and that’s more so a front office problem with how the organization has constructed the team and decided to ignore the obvious need for shooting.

Nevertheless, some of the blame has to fall a 23-year-old All-Star Ben Simmons, who by the way signed a five year, $170 million contract extension in the summer. He’s got his money and has not shown the type of development in one key area of his game and possibly the only important improvement he’d need to make to throw his name amongst the best players in the league.

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Instead, he continues to primarily do his damage in the paint. While Simmons is elite in the open court and has the size and ability to finish at the rim (64.7% in the restricted area) his efficiency dips right outside of the restricted area. According to, Simmons is shooting just 34.3 percent in the painted area outside of the restricted circle (31-108), he’s only attempted 12 mid-range jump shots this year making four and making just two 3-pointers so far this year on five attempts. He simply just has not been a threat offensively outside the restricted area.

The Sixers’ offensive numbers are down across the board in terms of offensive rating and points per game. While the team has managed to rank 4th in the league in field goal percentage and 11th in 3-point percentage. It can be misleading because this is a team that doesn’t get to the free-throw line and is at the bottom half of the league when it comes to turnovers and pace.

Although the team has been great defensively (6th in defensive rating), they don’t create enough in the open court (12th in fast-break points) and are forced to play in the halfcourt more than they would like and the obvious lack of spacing is a problem. Philadelphia is one of the best post-up teams in the league but would benefit from more spacing to attack the many mismatches they propose on a nightly basis.

While Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons should not be traded right now because you build around talents like those until you absolutely know it’s time to move on but the complimentary parts also matter. Management has had done a disservice to the potential of Simmons and Embiid by not adding the floor spacing talents that they require. Instead, opting to sign another big man to a $109 million contract.

Regardless, Ben Simmons has not made improvements to his game that can be overlooked. The free-throw shooting has not improved, and he continues to shy away from taking jumpers from any distance on a consistent basis. Even this poorly constructed team would be better if Ben Simmons progressed on the offensive end as many hoped for.

Coming into the year fans were salivating over Instagram videos of Ben Simmons taking and making jumpers in an open gym. I think now we can all stop using open gym videos to try and predict how a player’s season is going to go. Simmons even came out during the Sixers media and said:

"“If it’s open, I’ll take it.”"

The Sixers more than ever need Ben Simmons to impose his will on the offensive end. Too many times he’s left standing in the dunkers spot, clogging the paint making it difficult for everyone else to operate in their spots and find a clean look. A center with the size and low post skills of Embiid should be surrounded by floor spacers to make him the most effective. If you watch the Sixers you can see Embiid hounded by defenders any time he gets the ball below the free-throw line.

While Embiid has been selfless enough to play more on the perimeter and stand out at the 3-point line, to the dismay of his critics. The same can’t be said for Simmons who refuses to attempt 3-point shots at the detriment of his own team, even with the support of his head coach Brett Brown who came out after a game in December against the Cleveland Cavaliers which we saw Ben Simmons hit his second 3-pointer of the season and his career.

"“This is what I want; you can pass this along to his agent, his family, his friends and him… I want one 3-point shot a game, minimum,” said coach Brown to the media following the game."

We have not seen an attempt from beyond the arc by Simmons since that night.

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At some point in his career Simmons is going to have to get comfortable attempting 3-pointers. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s doesn’t even happen in a single off-season but it starts by building confidence in real NBA games. Until then, the pairing of Embiid and Simmons might do more harm than good.