Ben Simmons is entering the offseason with a clear task facing him to improve as an offensive player after the way the season ended for he and the Sixers in the conference semis against the Hawks.
Simmons’ reluctance to shoot has long been a point of contention for his detractors, but that conversation reached a fever pitch after Game 7. The 24-year-old All-Star has always had a unique offensive game, less predicated on scoring and more on running the offense as a facilitator, but in crunch time that can get exposed as the Sixers’ best on-ball creator for others becomes a complete non-threat. That was exasperated this postseason by his free throw shooting woes, which seemed to lead to him shutting down as an attacker to avoid getting fouled.
This offseason will be about building up those scoring skills as well as working on being more mentally prepared for what comes his way with teams fouling him and sending him to the stripe. Figuring out how to shrug off the misses to keep attacking, as Giannis Antetokounmpo does, will go a long way towards that, but it is much easier said than done. All of that is to say, this offseason for Ben Simmons is all about working on Ben Simmons, and the star is apparently taking that seriously, officially withdrawing from the Australian Olympic team on Monday (something that’s been rumored for more than a week), with coach Brian Goorjian offering a statement supporting Simmons’ choice.
“I have spoken with Ben and whilst we wanted him to be a part of our team, we understand and support his decision and he has made it clear that this is something that he wants to be a part of in the future. It is a pretty rough time for him right now and I know it is something that he wanted to do, but the timing just hasn’t worked. The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA, but the Boomers are always here for him. We wanted him to know that in his time of need, the culture and the guys here are behind him and support him.”
Australia was understandably excited about their prospects in the Olympics with Simmons, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills, and potential lotto pick Josh Giddey leading the way, but will now be down a star. That doesn’t mean a deep run is an impossible task for the Boomers, but just a more difficult one. As for Simmons, he’ll look to bounce back for next season with plenty of attention and scrutiny sure to come his way when he steps on the NBA floor again in October.