In one of the best rookie campaigns the NBA has seen in quite some time, Ben Simmons turned heads virtually every night as a dominant 6 foot 10 point guard. He finished the season averaging 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists. He helped the Sixers to a 52-30 record — their best win total since 2001 — as well as their first playoff appearance since 2012. Capping off the year with the utmost individual achievement in a Rookie of the Year award, Ben Simmons did virtually everything he could in his first season in the NBA.
With all of this success, Simmons had a glaring hole in his game though, which was his lack of a jump shot. He didn’t make a single 3-pointer, missing all 11 of his attempts from beyond the arc, all of which were last-second heaves. But even aside from 3s, Simmons just simply didn’t take many jump shots period.
The Sixers were walking home early after losing to the Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Ben Simmons was the face of the Sixers unsuccessful series when he only came away with one singular point in Game 2 versus the Celtics. His game felt limited most of the series and the Celtics were able to take advantage of that weakness by laying off of him and clogging up driving lanes.
With the season ending on a disappointing note for the Sixers and Ben Simmons, this sophomore season will be massively important to his development and respect around the league. He has a jump shot to improve on, and other holes of his game that have been exposed, especially during the best teams in the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, you’re going to face some great head coaches, and Brad Stevens exposed the weaknesses of Ben Simmons, forcing him to take tough shots, and making the Sixers almost one dimensional.
Simmons was quoted saying he has a lot more to give this upcoming season and knows that his jump shot is of the utmost priority. It’s not necessarily about a great shooting percentage this upcoming season, he has to start taking shots to feel comfortable down the stretch of games.
But like his teammates, coaches, management, and fans, Simmons wants more in year two. His off-season regimen was structured accordingly, with free throw and jump shooting being key points of emphasis.
“You’ve got to start slowly,” said Simmons, who shot 56.0 percent from the foul line, and scored 80.4 percent of his points in the point (fifth-most in the NBA). “If it’s adding a free throw that gets up to 80.0 percent, that’s about five more points right there. If you add little things and keep adding over time, that’s how you become great.”
In respect to his jumper, Simmons noted on the Fanatic that there’s not only value to makes, but takes.
“If you take [jump shots], [teams] give you a little bit more respect, and you’re able to make more moves and dissect the defense,” Simmons said. “This summer, I’ve been working a lot on certain things that I’ll definitely use.”
It’s not going to be an overnight transition for the young star out of Australia. He isn’t going to instantly turn into a great three-point shooter, and he probably won’t ever be a guy who is relied on to make threes down the stretch.
There just aren’t many examples of players going from no jump shot at all, to one of the team’s most trusted shooters. Teams will lay off of him a bit in one-on-one coverage, but if you’re willing to take a shot, it at least makes the defense respect you, which opens up other things for the offense.
A player that we can refer to who was not afraid to take the open jumper is Marcus Smart. He shot 30.1 percent from three last season but still attempted over four per game. Perhaps that was a bit too many, but since he was a willing shooter, defenders had to chase him off the line while rotating. Giannis Antetokoumpo was another player who struggled early on in his career to shoot even averaging 16 percent from three in his sophomore campaign. He was never afraid to shoot the ball though despite his struggles, something Ben Simmons has to get used to doing.
Another player one can refer to in the past is Jason Kidd. Kidd’s son, TJ spoke on how his father’s jump shooting struggles early in his career were similar to what Ben is going through. As TJ stated, he thinks Simmons will be fine, and that a three-point shot doesn’t need to be in his arsenal, just something the opposing team has to respect. If he can add that to the array of skills he already has, it can be a huge boost for his ceiling as a player.
When Simmons is on the perimeter, Horford is covering him from the paint… Sheesh pic.twitter.com/CuRBtjA1eW
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 4, 2018
As you can see in the above clip, teams just knew he wasn’t going to be able to do anything outside of the paint. With Horford waiting for him in the paint, he became pretty useless in the half-court set. The only way he was able to score, was in transition, or from the line..and even that was a struggle.
Having the defense have one more thing to worry about with Ben would just create more matchup problems for the opposition. Even if a decently consistent mid-range jump shot is something that he can develop, it opens up for the rest of his game to improve as well. To be a triple-double threat every night is one thing, but if he is able to up his points per game with an improved jump shot, it will prove wonders for an already explosive Sixers offense.
Another part of Simmons’ game that needs improvement is his ability to take care of the ball. Now, he only averaged 3.4 turnovers per game last season but had 14 games during the regular season and playoffs of six or more turnovers, and was also fourth in total turnovers among point guards with 278. While the Sixers were able to overcome a lot of these high turnover games from Simmons, it can’t be a sustainable success. Simmons will be tasked to find open shooters this season with success as he has three players who were in the top 35 of three-pointers made last season in Robert Covington, J.J. Redick, and Dario Saric.
Simmons’ improvement will have a direct impact on how the Sixers do this season. More trust than ever rides on his shoulders. Last year he shot 31 percent on jump shots, which is not good for a ‘point guard’ that is asked to do as much as Simmons. He’s a special player in his own right, and to truly compare to a LeBron James, a jump shot is needed, not only for his ceiling but for the Sixers’ ceiling as well.