Less than a day after telling reporters he didn't know if Ben Simmons was capable of playing point guard for a championship-level team, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said the franchise has a plan to develop the 24-year-old into more of a shooter.
"I believe, without going into detail with what we're doing, I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it," Rivers said Tuesday. "... After being here for a year, I really do believe we've identified what and how, and now we have to do the do part. We have to work to do it. It's not going to be an easy job. But it's definitely a job that Ben can do."
Simmons was abysmal from the field in an Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Atlanta Hawks, shooting 27-of-45 for the series while noticeably shying away from jump shots and three-pointers.
He scored just five points in 36 minutes in a 103-96 Game 7 loss Sunday as the East favorites saw their postseason end after two rounds.
While Simmons shot 55.7 percent from the field for the season, he still has plenty of room to improve—starting at the foul line and moving back. The LSU product shot 61.3 percent from the line, but for a point guard of his caliber who drives the lane easily, those numbers need to be much higher, especially for a team that's contending for titles.
In Game 7, Simmons even had a few open looks at the rim that he chose to pass up, frustrating his teammates at a crucial moment.
Simmons admitted his shooting didn't live up to his expectations, telling reporters after Game 7 that he "didn't do enough for his teammates" and that there's plenty for him to work on. Rivers agrees. If Simmons is going to have a long career in Philly, that has to change immediately.
"We're not hiding that Ben has to become a better free throw shooter, and a more confident free throw shooter. If that happens, I really believe a lot of other parts of his game follows. I said that, if you remember, before the season started. First thing I said was, 'We got to get him to the line 10 times a night.' And to want to get to the line 10 times a night. So we've got to put in work so he can get there. But if we can get him there, man, his game goes to a different level."
If not, Simmons could have a fate similar to Markelle Fultz, who was supposed to be the true franchise point guard in Philadelphia before shooting woes forced the Sixers to trade him to the Orlando Magic in February 2019.
In any case, it's clear Simmons' current level of play isn't enough to earn an NBA title.