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Ben Simmons withdraws from Summer Olympics to focus on ‘individual skill development’

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star point guard Ben Simmons has been the talk of the NBA after a disastrous performance in the playoffs. There’s been widespread speculation that Simmons will be traded this summer in an attempt by the Sixers to find a better No. 2 option behind NBA MVP finalist Joel Embiid.

The backdrop here is Simmons wanting to take part in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for his native Australia National Team starting in late-July. That’s now not in the cards as Simmons announced officially that he has withdrawn from the postponed Summer Games.

The reasoning? According to Ben Simmons, it’s to work on his individual game. Australian national coach Brian Goorjian reiterated that notion on Monday.

“The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA,” the head coach said.

Simmons has been torn to shreds by both those in the NBA community and fans since a horrendous playoff performance for the underperforming 76ers.

Ben Simmons playoff struggles and the importance of this offseason

ben simmons withdraws from summer olympics
Jun 20, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) dribbles the ball against Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (15) during the first quarter of game seven of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In Philadelphia’s seven-game series loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Simmons attempted all of three shots in the fourth quarter of games. This lack of so-called aggressiveness was a focal point of the aforementioned Embiid after the series loss.

Regardless of where Simmons plays next season, he needs to develop a better perimeter shot and find some more aggressiveness. Despite earning an All-Star appearance and being named a finalist for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, the former No. 1 pick saw his averages decline dramatically from previous seasons.

Ben Simmons stats (career-lows in bold)

Ben Simmons trade rumors
Jun 20, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons warms up before game seven of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2017-18: 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 55% shooting
  • 2018-19: 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 56% shooting
  • 2019-20: 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 58% shooting
  • 2020-21: 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 56% shooting

That type of regression is not good for a guy who is entering his fifth year in the NBA and was once seen as a franchise cornerstone.

In addition to averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and assists this past season, Simmons also averaged a personal low of 10.1 shots per game. Some of these numbers were taken to a whole new low in the postseason with Simmons averaging 11.9 points on 7.9 attempts per game. That’s just ugly.

The fact that Simmons wants to hit the gym and work on his individual game (shooting) has to be seen as good news for the 76ers or any team that acquires him in a trade this summer. The status quo obviously isn’t working.

If Ben Simmons can actually find a way to improve his shooting, both from the field and free-throw line (34% during the playoffs), he could end up morphing into that two-way star most expected when Philadelphia took the former LSU standout No. 1 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Still only 24 years old, there’s a lot of room for growth here. What he does this offseason will be extremely important for Simmons’ career trajectory moving forward. Opting out of the Olympics should help in this regard.

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