Before the NBA was indefinitely suspended, Ben Simmons was dealing with a lower back injury and was questionable about returning for 76ers’ playoff run. It’s clear that the playoffs won’t start as initially intended, which can be beneficial for Ben. Having the regular-season postponed gives Simmons some more time to heal, but also to work on the biggest flaw in his game, his shooting.
Coming out of LSU, all the scouting reports were pointing out Simmons’s lack of shooting ability. His all-around game was, and still is, at the elite level, but the inability to shoot has prevented him from reaching his full potential. The thing about Simmons is that it seems like he isn’t as incompetent shooter as his number of outside shots suggests. We have seen videos of him consistently hitting jumpers in practice, and then refusing even to attempt the same types of shots during the game.
Ben’s shooting mechanic was never beyond repair. He used to have a little hitch while releasing the ball, but now he is shooting the ball smoothly. Mechanically and opportunity-wise, Simmons should be much more usable as a shooter than his numbers suggest. The situation with him refusing to shoot the ball reached a point when his coach Brett Brown was thinking about benching him:
“I told Ben, ‘If you aren’t willing to shoot, then do I just bench you? Because I can do that.’ We could have gone that route or continue to coach him as it relates to spacing. We worked on the ability to use it as a choice to shoot the 3, catch and go, get in the paint, or find someone else. This was all discussed. I opted to take this path. I think only down the road will we be able to assess if it was the right one truly. In the meantime, he’s a two-time All-Star, a kid that’s gone from a college 4 to an NBA point guard. His story is a pretty darn good one.”Brett Brown, via ESPN
It seems that Simmons himself isn’t concerned about his lack of a jump shot, saying that too much emphasis is put on it. Instead, he is improving parts of the game that are already at a high level. However, Simmons understands that him not being able to shot isn’t only holding him back but is also not allowing the Sixers to utilize him and Joel Embiid together properly. In the league of three-point shooting, having two guys crowding the lane isn’t ideal and is easier to defend, especially in a playoff series. Simmons is confident that his shooting game will develop as he gets more comfortable spacing the floor.
“I know it’s going to come. It’s a matter of me being comfortable doing it. Some of that is getting the reps in. I can take a hook shot from the elbow because I’ve done it so many times, I’m confident it will go in. It’s second nature. With 3s, it’s never been like that. I’ve got to make it a point of emphasis. I could be one of those guys shooting 30 percent right now. But I’d rather be one of those guys shooting 40 percent.”Ben Simmons, vis ESPN
A guy who is an all-star in a three-point shooting league without even being a threat outside of 16 feet must be elite at almost everything else he does. And Ben Simmons is. He is a great defender, elite playmaker and rebounder, and a great finisher around the rim. It seems that adding a jumper to his game will unlock the enormous potential we all know Simmons possesses. He is going to have to get accustomed to missing some shots. His expressing willingness to try to expand his range is a massive step in the right direction. Adding a jump shot to his on-court repertoire would stop the talk around the league about his game being incomplete, and make him much more dangerous in the half-court offense, where due to the lack of a jumper he can’t fully showcase his abilities.
Getting Simmons back on the court is the first step towards him, improving as a jump-shooter. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Simmons is “feeling strong and is dying to get out there,” having all the restrictions removed. He is available for the return, should the NBA suspension end. Him returning as a more willing and better shooter is what the Sixers fans are hoping for. Everything else is on point.