Washington Wizards: Did Scott Brooks and the Wizards break Ben Simmons?

Washington Wizards Scott Brooks. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Scott Brooks. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Scott Brooks’s time in D.C. is officially over. What the Washington Wizards got out of him was five years of promise, misfortune, and outright underachievement. His final record as head coach was 183-207.

Parting ways was the right decision. I’ve given my reasons for why he needed to go. His legacy will always be marred by his inability to get over the hump, even with generational talents like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook (twice), and Bradley Beal under his wing. That’s a sad fact to wrestle with since he’s a man well-respected by coaches, players, and analysts across the board. People have nothing but good things to say about Scott Brooks, the man. His coaching, however, falls short.

But in the playoffs, there was one thing he did that worked. And it didn’t just work for the Wizards.

Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards should get credit for breaking Ben Simmons, or at least jumpstarting his postseason demise.

The Hack-a-Ben strategy worked. Well, for one game, at least. In the Wizards’ single playoff victory, the 76ers’ point guard shot 5-11 from the charity stripe. He didn’t shoot better than 62 percent from the foul line in a single game during that five-game series. Those stats can weigh on a primary ball-handler with an aversion to jump shots, especially when analysts chirp about that deficiency day-in and day-out. In some strange way, Brooks found the key to sending Philly home early. Nate McMillan and the Atlanta Hawks, who ultimately beat the 76ers in seven games, just had a better team and a better strategy overall.

Sure, you can make the argument about Doc Rivers’s track record of playoff collapses. Sure, you can say that Joel Embiid had eight turnovers in Game 7. But Rivers doesn’t play, and Embiid carried his team (on a torn meniscus) offensively because Simmons was a liability during crunch time. In the fourth quarter of each game, the Sixers were nearly playing four on five with their point guard being relegated to the corner as he was too scared to even dunk the ball.

The Atlanta Hawks should send Scott Brooks a fruit basket for revealing Philadelpia’s Achilles heel.

In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Hack-a-Ben interrupted Philadelphia’s rhythm. No one besides Seth Curry and Embiid could get going because Ben Simmons lived at the line, chucking bricks. Here’s how Simmons performed at the free-throw line throughout the series.

  • Game 1: 3-10 FT
  • Game 2: 0-2 FT
  • Game 3: 4-8 FT
  • Game 4: 1-5 FT
  • Game 5: 4-14 FT
  • Game 6: 2-4 FT
  • Game 7: 1-2 FT

In the last two games of the series vs. Atlanta, Simmons barely shot the ball. He was broken by that point and let all the noise about his shooting inability affect his play. Scott Brooks is responsible, at least to some degree, for laying out that blueprint.

Of course, this doesn’t absolve Brooks from his disappointing tenure in DC, but credit is given where credit is due. However, Hack-a-Ben could have lasting effects around the league.

There’s a buzz around trading Simmons to Portland, Minnesota, even Golden State. Any of those scenarios could change everything (if Simmons could ever learn to shoot outside five feet). While Nate McMillan and the Hawks may be the ones who sent Philly home, Brooks showed the rest of the league how to get under Ben Simmons’s skin. Hack-a-Ben might be the demon that haunts him for the rest of his career.

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