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Why Ben Simmons never became a superstar for the Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 01: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers calls to teammates during the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Wells Fargo Center on March 01, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Ben Simmons no longer wants to play for the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite their status among the elite of the Eastern Conference, the team has failed to reach the NBA finals. While the 76ers continue their search for a trade partner, the story behind Simmons’ shortcomings in Philadelphia layout a unique story to look back on.

Building a championship roster in the NBA brings about many challenges. Because of that, only a few teams emerge from the pack in each era. The great teams that have achieved championship success share traits of excellence and shades of luck. Unfortunately for them, this iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t have enough of either to separate themselves.

As far as who is responsible for that, you can look at it in many ways. Most people put it on Ben Simmons himself. After all, the evidence shows that he hasn’t improved as an offensive threat since his rookie season. That said, I see more to it beyond just the one player.

Instead of only looking directly at Ben Simmons, I think we ought to consider everything around him as well. That is what this article will entail. As a new outlook for the 76ers stands on the horizon, we revise all the contributing factors into why Ben Simmons fell short of his potential in Philadelphia.

He never fit well with Joel Embiid

Jan 30, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) and guard Ben Simmons (25) during a free throw against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get this out of the way. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were always an awkward fit. Simmons himself has acknowledged that. In the modern NBA, it proves more fruitful to only have one non-shooter on the floor, if any. Though Embiid has shown an ability to stretch the floor, he hasn’t done so at a proficient enough rate to justify him standing along the three-point line on offense. Unfortunately, because Simmons struggles to stretch the floor at all, Philadelphia made do with compromising Embiid.

The issues with this pairing never really reared their heads until the postseason. Opponents took advantage of the poor chemistry at work, singling out Simmons on defense and forcing the 76ers into bad offensive possessions. It has played into the 76ers downfall in each of the last four years. Even so, management had chosen not to address it throughout.

Results show a lack of development on Simmons’ end and the 76ers coming up short in the playoffs several times over. Their lack of success together had little to do with their personal relationship. Instead, it boiled down to the fact that their styles could never mix in a way conducive to winning at the highest level.

The 76ers stunted his development

Jun 8, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) dribbles the ball against the Atlanta Hawks during the first quarter in game two of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As is the case with some stars, I believe Ben Simmons needed extra time to develop. His production in college proved astounding, but the flaws were evident. Unfortunately for him, the 76ers couldn’t afford to waste any more time rebuilding. Because of this, Simmons had to immediately emphasize aspects of his game that best fit the team instead of growing in every facet to become a better overall performer.

I say this, not to abstain him from any blame for his play, but instead explain why he never really grew as an offensive player. By 2019 when the 76ers acquired Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, they had set their sights on winning the NBA title. Consequently, Ben Simmons couldn’t use regular-season games to take ill-advised shots for the sake of development. The restrictions only increased when the playoffs came around.

In comparison to someone like Giannis Antetokounmpo, the situation around him made most of the difference. Giannis was granted the extra time that Simmons didn’t have. Moreover, the team around him suited his strengths well enough for him to grow at a steady pace to where he stands now.

Ben had it much worse. And though the organization would remedy the roster fit for this past season, the team’s motives for championship contention hadn’t changed. Therefore, Simmons’ approach to the game hadn’t changed. In summation, Ben never received the essential tools for proper development from the team that drafted him. The results showed his stunted growth as a player yet to fulfill his potential.

Where does he go from here?

Jun 14, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) calls a play as guard Ben Simmons (25) dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter during game four in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

All things considered, it seems as if there’s only one thing to do. Ben Simmons needs to leave the Philadelphia 76ers. When and how that happens remains uncertain for the time being. The 76ers have put a high price tag on their all-star point guard, and teams have shown hesitance in making any massive offers. Meanwhile, Simmons has refused to report to the team and aims not to do so until traded.

On this account both the 76ers and Simmons lack perspective. Philadelphia seems to think they can get away with inflating Simmons’ value despite his most recent showing. It reflects particularly bad on them considering that they hold a significant share of the blame for what he has become up to this point in his NBA career.

On the other hand, Simmons ought to reconsider his position. The best thing for him would involve going to a team insistent on building around him. Suitors will be less likely to take that approach if he doesn’t play and show some residual semblance of the superstar many believe he could still become.

We all understand where this situation is headed. However, how each party goes about themselves will ultimately determine how the resolution turns out. In the end, this story illustrates in so many ways how difficult building a champion is in the NBA.

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