Philadelphia 76ers: A Ben Simmons Jump-Shot Won’t Slow Down His Playoff Output
Through his first 60 games in the NBA, Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers has had no problem overcoming his one fatal flaw: the inability to make a jump-shot.
The Philadelphia 76ers point-forward has shown a complete unwillingness to attempt a three-point shot, let alone make one. This season, Simmons has attempted 10 three-point shots, eight of them being back-court heaves. That leaves him with two legitimate three-point attempts. On top of that, both of those two attempts have come with less than four seconds left on the shot clock. Essentially, Simmons has never willingly attempted a three-point shot in the course of a game.
There’s a clear-cut difference between a player like Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Simmons, who are both labeled as weak jump-shooters. Antetokounmpo — unlike Simmons — isn’t afraid to take an open three, or even a contested one, from time-to-time. Opposing teams would rather see Giannis attempt a three-point shot than a drive to the basket, but they have to respect his jump-shot even though he’s only shooting 30 percent this season. Simmons, on the other hand, is a complete non-shooter.
That being said, the 21-year-old rookie of the Philadelphia 76ers has been spectacular this season despite his clear shortcoming. Simmons is currently averaging 16.5 points 7.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists-per-game. He’s leading all rookies in triple-doubles (five) and is two short of tying Magic Johnson’s seven rookie-season triple-doubles. Simmons has already proven to be an effective NBA player, regardless if he can knock-down a three or not.
Although teams aren’t guarding Ben Simmons like he’s Klay Thompson, they haven’t gone as far as playing off of him by 10 feet when he has the ball… yet. There’s only a month left in the season, and the Philadelphia 76ers have solidified their spot in the playoffs. With that, we’ve heard rumblings that Simmons is in for a rude awakening in the playoffs when teams finally start daring him to shoot outside of the paint.
Recent history has told us that non-shooters expose themselves in the playoffs. Andre Roberson is the prime example of that. In the regular season, Roberson’s ineffective jumper is an issue, but it’s a workable one. Once teams meet in a seven-game series, matchup-centric game planning occurs, and players with glaring holes in their game — poor defense, lack of shooting, etc. — often get picked apart. Simmons seems to fall right into this category, or does he?
Giving Simmons several feet to work with may not be a smart choice. Many times this season he took advantage of the space the defender gave him. Either by blowing past his defender or using that room to be a playmaker. Unlike Roberson, Simmons has a superb handle. When teams wander off Roberson, he isn’t a threat to drive to the rim like the 6-foot-10 forward. He can’t play-make like Simmons either. Teams have to pressure him, not because he’s a threat to shoot, but because giving him space amplifies his strongest skills.
By playing off Simmons by several feet, defenders are giving him a running start to finish emphatically around the rim. One of Simmons’ most effective finishes, the running hook shot, will become even more dynamic when a defender decides to sag-off. He’s made 44 of his 95 hook-shot attempts (46 percent) this year. Also, giving Ben Simmons space to create will increase his effectiveness as a passer. He’ll be able to pick apart defenses that give him more breathing room, like when an opposing team gives a great quarterback too much time in the pocket.
The toughest part for Simmons is overcoming the mental aspect of this opposing game plan. When teams leave Roberson — or any other poor shooter — completely unguarded, it gets in their heads quickly. As long as Simmons can take what teams give him and not play outside of his current skill-set, he’ll expose teams that are eager to give him space. The moment he starts attempting 16-20 foot jumpers — and bricks them — is when he’ll be in trouble.
Don’t lump Ben Simmons in with the rest of league’s ineffective shooters. Come playoff time his unique talent at 6-foot-10 will outweigh his poor jump-shooting.