Ben Simmons: Lost Potential

By Eric Vallen

Imagine this. You’re making 33,003,936 dollars this year, and for the next three years, two million dollars is added to that amount yearly.. Furthermore, before the present 33 million dollar salary, you were making at least five million dollars per year. What job might you think you’re doing? Perhaps CEO of a massive tech company? Maybe a hyper successful entrepreneur?

No. You’re being paid to play professional basketball. This is Ben Simmons’ reality. Before around five months ago, Ben Simmons was a highly promising player. Touted as one of the premier defenders in the league, Simmons also has the distinct ability of controlling the game through his passing vision and his near 6’10, 240 pound unstoppable frame. At only twenty-five years old, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to say that he could have been one of the faces of the NBA in a couple years. 

Yet now, it would be a stretch to say that, mostly because the man can’t stretch the floor to save his life. In other words, jumpshots are a completely foreign concept to Ben Simmons. When Simmons was a rookie, scouts had doubts about his jumpshot, but thought it could be improved over time. For the first two years of his career, the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office accommodated Simmons’ lack of a jump shot: signing and trading for shooters like J.J. Redick, and even stars like Jimmy Butler and Al Horford, all of whom are known for their ability to stretch the floor. 

However, the offense always ran through Simmons. He would bring the ball up the floor, and the five on the floor would either get into a pick and roll set, throw it into the post for Joel Embiid, their superstar center, or run option plays with Jimmy Butler. This concept was feasible, and successful, in the regular season. However, once playoffs came, teams could  isolate Simmons, essentially leaving him wide open all of the time due to his lack of a jump shot. As a result of such a lacking skill, the 76ers lost in the playoffs in both 2019 and 2020. 

In 2021, everything has fallen apart for Ben Simmons, thanks to Ben Simmons. During the Eastern Conference Semifinals in June, game seven versus the Atlanta Hawks—a win or go home situation—with his team down two points with just 3:29 on the clock, Simmons passed up a wide open dunk. For the entire series, Simmons shot 33% from the free throw line. Not a single shot from outside eight feet. Due to his lack of a work ethic and unwillingness to try improve his skillset, Simmons became so entrenched in the thought that he could only make close shots that he refused to take any mid to long range shots. As a result, teams could almost entirely ignore him. He essentially became 33,003,936 dollars worth of dead weight. The 76ers might as well have played four versus five for the entire playoffs this past season. 

Since the loss and subsequent elimination of the 76er team from the NBA Playoffs, Simmons did not reach out to or willfully receive any contact from the 76er front office for months. He repeatedly requested a trade during the offseason, claiming he wanted to go somewhere in California, or to join the Miami Heat. Yet, due to his behavior and terrible play, not a single team wanted him. The 76er front office vetted him as the All NBA 3rd Team and Defensive Player of the Year candidate that he was in 2019, and no front office has accepted any trades of that notion, due to their possession of at least a singular brain cell. 

On October 11, due to the impending start of the NBA season on October 20, Simmons returned to Philadelphia, essentially in order to pick up a check. However, the front office has the right to withhold some of Simmons’ money, and they took advantage of it, keeping an 8.25 million dollar check Simmons was to collect on October 1. During team practice on October 19, Simmons showed face, wearing sweatpants and non-basketball shoes, running at half speed the whole practice. Front office admins of the team slapped a one game suspension on Simmons, but seeing as he hasn’t played in any of the teams first six games this year, he may not play a game as a 76er again.

Refusing to develop a serviceable jumpshot, getting in his head about shooting mid to long range distance shots, and simply behaving like a diva qualify Ben Simmons as a turkey of the year. He failed again and again, on the biggest of stages, but never took accountability or took any measures to try and improve himself. Considering his egregiously large salary, Simmons has an obligation to the people of Philadelphia to give them his best, yet his stubbornness prevails, and 160,000,000 dollars goes to waste over the next four years of Philadelphia basketball.