‘Ben Simmons has a bigger problem’
BEN Simmons has looked the complete package at the 76ers pre-season camp, but it may be a distraction from his real issue, according to former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy.
During the Sixers' open media day to officially announce the start of the team's pre-season training, Simmons declared he will not hesitate to shoot open three-pointers this season.
It continues to be the biggest talking point around the All Star.
It shouldn't, according to Van Gundy.
The former Miami, Detroit and Orlando veteran coach says Simmons' most critical shortcoming is his delivery at the foul line.
Simmons has already established himself of one of the best attackers of the bucket in the league, but it didn't save him from question marks during the playoffs series this year that he was scared of being sent to the line with the game there to be won at the death.
In losses to Brooklyn and Toronto, Simmons was a lightning rod for criticism because of his apparent reluctance to take the game on.
Van Gundy said on Thursday Simmons' hot-and-cold record at the foul line could be the reason the 23-year-old left himself open to accusations of being gun shy during the Sixers run through to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Van Gundy says improving his free-throw accuracy would also have the flow-on effect of giving Simmons more confidence when he attacks the basket.
Simmons averages 58.3 per cent from the line, but improved his accuracy and frequency from the charity stripe last season.
"More important than shooting the three is he's got to make his free throws," Van Gundy said.
"At times, at the end of close games and in the playoffs, he looks a little reluctant to attack the basket for fear of getting fouled. If he can make free throws, even if he doesn't add the three right away, he'll have improved his game greatly."
Simmons in his rookie season was targeted by some coaches with a so-called "Hack-a-Simmons" strategy late in games where he was deliberately repeatedly fouled because of his apparent struggles from the top of the key.
Meanwhile, Simmons, the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2016 draft, said earlier this week he doesn't need threes to become one of the top stars in the game. "I think I'm an elite player," he said. "I'm elite at what I do and what I did last season."
The 23-year-old Simmons signed a $240 million, five-year contract extension in the off-season. He made his NBA debut in the 2017-18 season and was Rookie of the Year. He was an All-Star for the first time last season.
Simmons said his only goal is to win the 76ers their first championship since 1983 and that for all the debate over his jump shot, "I don't really care."
Joel Embiid says the 76ers have a "chance to win it all" and he expects to be in the best shape of his career to try and make it happen.