Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons is the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, but that has not immunized him from criticism this season.
The 76ers are locked at 1-1 in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. On Wednesday, Nets forward Jared Dudley gave his assessment of Simmons at media availability.
"Ben Simmons is a great player in transition," Dudley said, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. "And once you get him into halfcourt, he's average."
Through two games against Brooklyn, Simmons is averaging 13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists. In Game 1, Simmons struggled to nine points on 44.4 percent shooting from the field but redeemed himself in Game 2 with a triple-double on 66.7 percent shooting.
Who knows how Dudley's comments may fuel the 22-year-old come Game 3 on Thursday night.
The Nets' 12-year veteran has also challenged Simmons publicly ahead of Game 1.
On Saturday, according to John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Dudley addressed how the Nets would defend against Simmons from the outside: "We will leave him wide open until he proves in this league that he can make it. Right now, he's not even attempting it. So we know he's not going to be able to do that for the most part."
In his two NBA regular seasons since Philadelphia selected him No. 1 overall in 2016, Simmons has astonishingly only attempted 17 three-pointers and made none. In the Sixers' series with the Nets, he has yet to attempt a three.
Simmons' limited range is his most persistent problem. When in transition, he can choose his shot and get as close to the basket as he wants. In the half court, defenses can bottle him into uncomfortable—and, to this point, incapable—positions.
Jeff Skversky 6abc @JeffSkversky
Ben Simmons 2018-19 Shooting Among NBA Point Guards: ◾️BEST FG % but ONLY .325% on Jumpers ◾️WORST Free Throw % ◾️WORST % on Catch & Shoot ◾️LEAST Likely to Catch & Shoot ◾️20% FG on Pull Up Jumpers Range: ◾️.257 % when 10-16 Feet ◾️.105 % when 16-3 Point ◾️.000 % from 3 @6abc https://t.co/gIJC8jRKSC
In January, Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight analyzed Simmons' mercurial shooting. Paine's assessment, in part:
"It's like something you might have seen from an NBA star of the 1970s or 1980s—if only we'd had shot charts for players back then. Of course, this hasn't stopped Simmons from being an extremely productive NBA player: He currently ranks 16th in the league in Win Shares and is tied for 14th in Value Over Replacement Player.
"But as SB Nation's Matt Ellentuck pointed out a few weeks ago, Simmons's unwillingness to shoot could be hampering Philly's potential against better opponents. 'In Simmons' 11 career games against the Celtics,' Ellentuck wrote, 'Boston has outscored Philly by 125 points in 402 minutes with him on the floor, according to StatMuse.' By comparison, that number was somehow 134 points worse than [Joel] Embiid's plus-minus against Boston in a comparable number of minutes."
Against Brooklyn, Simmons' performance has so far directly correlated with the game's result.
However, as this series progresses, many other factors are coming into play—one of which is trash talk between the two teams, and it all seems to in one way or another involve Simmons.
During Saturday's 111-102 Game 1 loss, Philadelphia fans booed Simmons and the Sixers. On Monday, that transformed into cheers due to Philly's 145-123 blowout victory. Simmons will play a key role in deciding which side of that spectrum holds the most weight once this series—and the Sixers' postseason run as a whole—ends.