Doc Rivers said he is unsure whether Ben Simmons can play point guard on a championship team as the Philadelphia 76ers head coach casted doubt over the embattled All-Star's future following Sunday's NBA playoff exit.
Simmons and the 76ers were subjected to boos following their shock 103-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, who won Game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
After another failed run at a first NBA title since 1983, Simmons was particularly in the firing line having attempted just four shots for five points in the series decider, while tallying 13 assists and eight rebounds.
The debate around Simmons – an elite defender and creator – centres on his offense or lack thereof, with the 76ers often handicapped by his unwillingness to shoot.
Asked if he thought Simmons could be a guard on a championship team, Rivers told reporters post-game: "I don't know the answer to that right now.
"I don't know. He struggled from the free throw line and that became a factor in the series. There's no doubt about that. Still believe in him.
"But, we have work to do. We're gonna have to get in the gym, put a lot of work in, and go from there."
It remains to be seen whether Simmons – who had at least eight assists in a half for the third time in his career, the most such performances by a 76ers player since 1996-97 – will still be in Philadelphia for the 2021-22 season.
Simmons was reportedly at the centre of trade talks in January as the 76ers tried to acquire James Harden from the Houston Rockets before Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets prised the former MVP to the Barclays Center.
Booed by 76ers fans, with videos circulating on social media of some supporters burning Simmons jerseys, the Australian said: "I love being in Philly. I love this organisation.
"The fans are great, great people. I had a bad series. I expect that. It's Philly."
Philadelphia team-mate Joel Embiid (31 points and 11 rebounds) also appeared to aim a jab at Simmons following the postseason elimination.
Simmons passed on a wide-open dunk during the closing stages against the Hawks, instead passing to Matisse Thybulle – who was fouled and made just one of the two free throws.
"I'll be honest," MVP runner-up Embiid said. "I thought the turning point was when we—I don't know how to say it—but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw.
"We didn't get a good possession on the other end and Trae [Young] came back and he made a three and then from there down four, it's on me. I turned the ball over and tried to make something happen from the perimeter. But I thought that was the turning point."
Asked whether he would like to see the 76ers run it back next season, Embiid replied: "That's a tricky question".