Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen was asked about Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons' offensive struggles this postseason during a wide-ranging interview with Tyler R. Tynes of GQ Magazine that published Thursday.
Amid his lengthy answer, Pippen pointed the finger at 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, saying he should not have been playing Simmons in the fourth quarter because of his struggles at the foul line.
"I watched a lot of games that Doc [Rivers] shouldn't have had him in, in the fourth quarter. If I give you a deck of cards and I give you a deuce of heart and a deuce of diamond, and we playing Spades, why you keep grabbing those cards when you know you're gonna lose in that category?
"This kid been this way the whole time and Doc brought him in and set him up for failure. He been like this! And you guys know he been like this. And Doc kept putting him in the game, he kept letting that team do fouls on him. Take him out the game! The Lakers did it with Shaq, and he's bigger and more dominant and probably more fearless than Ben Simmons. Doc made him be a failure."
Simmons shot just 33.3 percent from the charity stripe during his team's Eastern Conference Semifinals loss against the Atlanta Hawks, who defeated Philadelphia 4-3 in the best-of-seven matchup. He also attempted three shots in the fourth quarter over the entire series and none in the final four games, per Sporting News.
Pippen also said Simmons "is who he is" and that people know he doesn't want to shoot in the fourth quarter or get humiliated at the charity stripe.
According to Pippen, Simmons doesn't have any weaknesses beyond shooting. He compared Simmons to Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has also had his fair share of free-throw woes. The difference, Pippen said, is that Antetokounmpo doesn't care about getting humiliated at the line:
"Giannis will go to the free-throw line and shoot two f--king air-balls and come right down the court the next time and try and dunk on you. If Ben Simmons miss a free throw, he gonna start passing it before he get to the free throw line on the other end. He didn't even wanna cross half court with the basketball because he was so afraid of being humiliated going to that foul line. That's why he didn't try to make that dunk at the end of the game. He's been doing it all year, bro."
Simmons, a three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive member and the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year, has excelled in just about every facet of the game that doesn't involve shooting. However, his offensive deficiencies have likely capped the 76ers' ceiling as a team.
Rivers is confident Simmons' shooting can be fixed, though, as he told Evan Orris of the New York Post:
"I think some of the stuff is obvious. 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 the other parts of his game will follow. I said that before the season started. The first thing I said was, 'We got to get him 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."
Simmons averaged 9.9 points per game in the Hawks series after posting 14.3 points during the regular season. He shot the ball an average of just 6.4 times per game and went 15-of-45 from the free-throw line.