The image of Ben Simmons passing up an easy dunk or layup in the fourth quarter of the Philadelphia 76ers' awful Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks is going to haunt the Sixers and their fans for a long time. Sadly, it was the perfect culmination of Simmons' woes in these playoffs. Despite being 6-foot-11 with only Trae Young to beat under the basket, Simmons was spooked about getting fouled because he had the yips at the free-throw line.
Simmons was historically bad at the foul line in the playoffs (34.2%) and didn't take a single shot in four consecutive fourth quarters, going completely invisible as the Sixers routinely faded down the stretch against Atlanta. His jump-shooting flaws have been known since he came into the NBA, but this weakness devolved into a total lack of aggression in the postseason. Doc Rivers benched Simmons at multiple points because of how much of a liability he had become. The youngster admitted the mental aspect of his struggles, and it showed in a painful way.
After years of trade rumors and falling short in the playoffs, it's time for those rumors to turn into an actual trade. There's simply no way Sixers president Daryl Morey can stand for what he saw out of Ben Simmons in these playoffs, and what was said after Game 7 only put the final nails in the coffin of the Australian's tenure in Philly.
Both Rivers and Joel Embiid effectively threw Simmons under the bus. Rivers had defended Simmons basically all season, but his frustration became evident as this series moved on and ended with Doc failing to come to the defense of his player. Embiid, without saying Simmons' name, called the passed-up bucket a “turning point” in the fourth quarter as the Sixers approached their demise.
There's just no way Ben Simmons can recover from getting buried by the coach and MVP candidate like that. He's already in his own head enough and was clearly exasperated after Game 7, so a fresh start is needed for both parties.
What's unfortunate for the Sixers is they will have to trade Simmons when his value is at his lowest point. It's not a good position to be negotiating from, and they might not get the kind of deal they're hoping for because of this. Simmons' massive contract is also a problem here.
Simmons is still just 24 and would admittedly help a number of teams, though. Even with his flaws, he's a defensive menace and an excellent distributor. The aggression will hopefully return, at least in the regular season, because it has never been quite this poor. The postseason questions will remain, but buying low on Simmons could be a boon for a team trying to make a leap up the standings. And, perhaps buoyed by a fresh start, maybe he figures out those playoff problems.
So, again, Ben Simmons simply has to go. He can't be brought back after this botched opportunity. In a wide-open championship race, the top-seeded Sixers embarrassed themselves with this failure. Sure, Embiid playing on a torn meniscus and Danny Green suffering a calf injury didn't help, but this title was right there for the taking. Simmons regressing in this way nuked those chances, and Philly can't wait around anymore to see if he'll fix his issues.