Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons acknowledged his struggles on offense as his team lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"Offensively, I wasn't there this series," he told reporters. "There's a lot of things I need to work on."
Simmons added that players "have to be mentally tough and can't take anything for granted" at this point in the season.
After Sunday's 103-96 loss, it's difficult to imagine how Philly can take the next step up if Simmons remains the second-best player. He finished with five points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.
Most damning, he took just four shots total and zero in the fourth quarter to continue a series-long trend.
Even when accounting for the fact that he was still absorbing the result, this is a pretty blunt assessment from head coach Doc Rivers:
In the wake of this disappointment, Simmons might get discussed in a way that ignores the very real value he brings on the floor. The 24-year-old is averaging 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists for his career, and he earned his second straight first-team All-Defensive nod.
But that makes his inability to shoot from distance–and unwillingness to shoot from anywhere against the Hawks—all the more frustrating.
LeBron James shot 29.0 percent from beyond the arc his rookie season and steadily worked on that part of his game until he became a relatively consistent long-range threat. Giannis Antetokounmpo is far from an efficient shooter but averaged 1.3 made three-pointers over the past two years. Julius Randle morphed into a 41.1 percent shooter from deep this year.
It seems theoretically possible for Simmons to evolve and become a better scorer and shooter, yet he has remained stagnant for four seasons. And those issues become magnified in the playoffs, when opposing teams can more regularly exploit a player's weaknesses.
Perhaps this is a metaphorical rock bottom for the 6'11" guard as he recognizes the areas in which his game is sorely lacking.