As the Ben Simmons holdout saga barrels on, more clarity regarding the precise reason the star wants out of Philadelphia continues to leak.
According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, "league sources say the primary motivation for Klutch Sports' aggressive holdout is to steer him to a team built around him on offense. No matter the roster makeup in Philly, he will only ever be No. 2 as long as [Joel] Embiid is healthy."
O'Connor added that when Simmons met with a Sixers contingency of head coach Doc Rivers, executives Daryl Morey and Elton Brand and team governor Josh Harris over the summer, he denied that his offensive role in Philadelphia was the issue.
Per that report, Rivers told Simmons he planned to stagger his minutes with Embiid more often this season, playing him at the 5 when Embiid was on the bench to get him in "more situations that resemble Giannis Antetokounmpo’s role in Milwaukee, with four shooters surrounding him, empowering him to be a primary scoring option with the second unit."
But O'Connor noted that Simmons "wasn't enthused."
Of course, there are a number of differences between Antetokounmpo and Simmons. The former is actually willing to shoot from the perimeter, even if his career 28.7 three-point shooting percentage leaves plenty to be desired.
But Giannis is also a far more efficient scorer by the basket. As O'Connor noted, "Antetokounmpo shot 63.5 percent on drives to the rim, according to Second Spectrum. Simmons shot only 53.4 percent on drives, and in lineups without a center, he shot only 46.4 percent."
And defensively, the Greek Freak can protect the rim, averaging 1.3 blocks per game last season. Simmons, meanwhile, is arguably the best and most versatile perimeter defender in the NBA, but he's hardly a rim-protector.
Yes, Simmons is a visionary passer. Yes, his ability to push the pace in transition is scary. Surrounding him with four shooters would make it far easier for him to get to the rim in the halfcourt, alleviating the strain he puts on an offense by being an unwilling shooter from outside the paint.
But while Antetokounmpo's offensive aggression never wavers—he averaged 20.9 shots per game in last season's playoffs—Simmons attempted just three fourth-quarter shots in the entire Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Atlanta Hawks.
That, ostensibly, came down to Simmons being worried about getting fouled and sent to the free-throw line, where he shot just 34.2 percent during the 2020-21 postseason on 6.1 attempts per game. Antetokounmpo wasn't great himself, shooting 58.7 percent from the charity stripe in the playoffs. But he also got to the line 9.8 times per game and didn't stop attacking the rim.
The point is that it's hard to build an entire offensive around a player who isn't willing to shoot from the perimeter in a floor-spacing league, and grows less aggressive as the game wears on. You might be able to get away with it in the regular season, given his passing and defense, but when the playoffs roll around, defenses tighten and you need players who can create their own offense.
Then, Simmons becomes more of a liability. It's not enough to surround him with shooters. You also need to surround him with players who can get a good shot up off the dribble when the play breaks down.
Until he evolves on offense, he'll be more a complementary star than a leading man, regardless of what narrative Klutch Sports attempts to weave.