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Career-defining moment for Ben Simmons as Philadelphia 76ers star struggles in Game 1

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons was not in any way up to the task in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.

With center Joel Embiid playing through a torn meniscus in his knee, Philadelphia needed Simmons to be even more aggressive on the offensive end of the court.

Instead, the three-time All-Star put up one of the worst performances of his career to open up a potential franchise-altering series. It was bad. Really, really bad.

Simmons might have hit on all seven of his shot attempts. But that’s precisely the problem. He was not aggressive in terms of attempting to put the ball through the net. Heck, rookie Tyrese Maxey attempted more shots in a pivotal Game 1.

Simmons also hit on just 3-of-10 free throws, continuing major struggles from the charity stripe. All the while, he turned the ball over five times in a 128-124 loss to Atlanta.

This is just the continuation of what has been a frustrating career for the talented former No. 1 pick. A lot has been made about Ben Simmons’ inability to improve his shooting range (five career three-pointers).

That’s not what a team needs in the modern NBA when it comes to a point forward. And it has led to Simmons struggling to become a true star in every definition of the term.

Now, he’s struggling from the free-throw line. A career 60% shooter at the stripe, Simmons has hit on 13-of-38 through six playoff games this season. It’s become so bad that Atlanta was intentionally fouling Simmons as Philadelphia was looking to pull off a frantic comeback Sunday afternoon.

With his Sixers down 1-0 in this series, it’s time for Simmons to prove the naysayers wrong and show he can be a core piece on a championship contender. Here’s why.

Further struggles will lead to Ben Simmons trade rumors

Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It was just a few months ago that Philadelphia offered up Simmons to the Houston Rockets in a package for James Harden prior to the blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets. I get it. Harden is a generational player and one of the best pure scorers in Association history. He also has a built-in relationship with 76ers front office head Daryl Morey. Even then, offering up Simmons might have told us everything we need to know about what Morey is thinking moving forward.

Should Simmons’ Game 1 performance on Sunday not be an outlier and he continues to struggle, we’re going to hear a ton of trade rumors moving forward during the summer. That’s especially true if Philadelphia is upset by Atlanta in this best-of-seven series.

The pairing with Joel Embiid might not be a winning formula

Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

An MVP finalist this season, Embiid played at an otherworldly level. He averaged a resounding 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds on 51% shooting from the field. The center has also developed a solid mid-range and perimeter game. Despite his injury issues, Embiid is seen as the face of the 76ers. That was magnified this past regular season when Simmons put up a career-worst statistical performance.

If Philadelphia is intent on building around Embiid, it will need a No. 2 option behind him. With Simmons having taken all of seven shots Sunday afternoon, it’s further proof that he isn’t that guy. It’s just not a natural fit. Adding someone like C.J. McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers would also make sense. Simply put, the 76ers need a No. 2 scoring option from the perimeter.

Limits to Ben Simmons game will continue to lead to questions

Unfortunately, Simmons just has not improved over the course of his first four NBA seasons. Sure he’s one of the best all-around defensive players in the game. He can also create mismatches with great ball distribution skills. But an inability to expand his game has to be seen as concerning.

In no way am I saying that a 24-year-old player is tapped out in terms of upside. Instead, it might make sense for Simmons to find a fresh start elsewhere. Further struggles and a second-round exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks would add another layer to this.