One of the pressing questions of this NBA season, one that will presumably dominate the discussion of Eastern Conference contenders, is whether Ben Simmons can develop a jump shot.
Stories of Simmons’ jumper during workouts have surfaced throughout the offseason. The Sixers lost their damn minds during a preseason game when Simmons pulled up for a three and made it, and rightfully so, because the jump shot is the gaping hole in his otherwise fairly complete skill set.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN dove deep into the issue, and though it doesn’t seem that Simmons is ready to become a full-time sniper, the Sixers are moving in the direction of putting him in position to shoot more often. As Bontemps notes, during the 2018 playoffs, the Celtics played off of Simmons whenever he had the ball, daring him to shoot and thus preventing him from beating them with the pass. Philadelphia adjusted during the 2019 playoffs, placing Simmons at the dunker spot more often, but that created new issues for Joel Embiid and further minimized Simmons’ playmaking.
This season, head coach Brett Brown plans on using a new tactic: actually spacing Simmons out to the three-point line and putting him in a position to take corner threes (from Bontemps).
Sixers coach Brett Brown has already said that’s going to change this season, Simmons instead moving to the corner — the closest and thus easiest spot on the court from which to make a 3-point shot.
“I’m spacing him to give him a chance,” Brown said. “I’m not burying him under the backboard. I’ve got to participate.”
All the work Simmons has done during the offseason won’t mean much unless he can translate it to game action, which is why it behooves the team to get over his nerves as quickly as possible. It’s unlikely that Simmons becomes a volume three-point shooter this season, or even converts them at an average clip, but starting from the corner is the next step in the process towards rounding out his game. If improved confidence in his jumper manifests at the free-throw line instead of the three-point line, that in itself would be a win for Philadelphia.
At 23 years old, Simmons is too young to simply remain the player that he currently is. He has to keep growing and expanding his game, and that means that the jump shot question won’t be going away for the foreseeable future.