Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons ended the 2020-2021 NBA season on a very low note. After the Sixers lost Game 7 to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round, Simmons admitted he had a bad series.
Averaging just under 10 points per game and shooting 33-percent from the free-throw line, Simmons disappeared offensively for Philly throughout a majority of the series. Although he brought value to the floor in other areas -- especially on defense -- his offensive struggles overshadowed everything else.
Mentally, Simmons wasn't there. Even in the first-round series against the Washington Wizards, the veteran All-Star struggled to knock down his free throws. As he went 0-9 from the stripe in the first three games against Washington in the first round, the Wizards adopted the "Hack-a-Ben" strategy, sending the struggling Simmons to the line, daring him to make shots while stalling Philly's offense.
It worked and even helped the Wizards pick up a win in the first-round series, but it wasn't enough for them to upset the first-seeded Sixers. However, Wizards star Bradley Beal believes that Washington's strategy against Simmons helped Atlanta knock Simmons off his game even more in the second round.
"We kind of exposed the move of fouling Ben [Simmons], putting him on the line a few times," Beal told CBS Sports' Michael Kaskey-Blomain. "Granted, I think in our series, he actually made a few. So, we had to go away from that instead of just giving away free points. But they were two totally different series, two totally different teams. Ben was more or less aggressive in our series, the first couple games, and then it kind of died down and trickled down from there."
Against Washington, Simmons played a stellar series. In five games, he averaged 14 points, nine assists, and 10 rebounds. When the Atlanta series rolled around, he hardly got aggressive as he played like somebody that was avoiding foul shots.
Although Simmons' offensive struggles weren't the sole reason the Sixers lost in seven games to the Hawks, it was one of the primary reasons they failed to come out on top. While the three-time All-Star had a fantastic first-round series all around, his extremely disappointing second-round performance could be the reason he gets moved elsewhere at some point next season.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.