The 76ers have hired Cameron Hodges as an assistant coach, adding to their player-development ranks. This move comes after the squad chose not to bring back respected shooting coach John Townsend.
Hodges, who holds a similar position with the San Antonio Spurs, will join the Sixers after his three-year tenure concludes at the end of the month.
Hodges is expected to work out with a variety of players, including All-Star point guard Ben Simmons, whose outside shooting has been a weakness since he entered the NBA. The Sixers have just four players committed to next year’s roster, so Hodges’ specific role, as well as the role of the team’s other player-development coaches, remains to be seen. But Simmons, who has averaged 16.4 points in his two-year pro career, and his shooting woes would seem a natural fit for Hodges.
However, one could argue that Townsend, a 17-year NBA veteran, was also a qualified candidate to work with the rising star. Simmons worked with Townsend, the Sixers’ assistant director of player development and a respected shooting coach, during the 2017-18 season and the entire 2016-17 campaign when Simmons was out with a foot injury.
The first overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft started to show improvement in his foul shooting under Townsend during the 2018 playoffs.
However, Simmons elected to work on his jumper with his brother, Liam, this past season. The Sixers will not renew Townsend’s contract and will eliminate his position at the end of this month.
Making major changes to the department, the Sixers promoted Lindsay Harding from full-time scout to a player-development coach in April. They’re expected to add more support in that area.
Hodges worked under Spurs assistant Chip Engelland, who heads San Antonio’s player-development program along with Will Hardy. He’s also someone Sixers coach Brett Brown will be comfortable with, considering the coach is part of San Antonio’s coaching tree.
Brown began his career there as a player-development coach and then was a longtime assistant before being named the Sixers head coach before the 2013-14 season. Brown and Hodges did not work together in San Antonio.
Simmons has played most of his Sixers career as the team’s primary ballhandler. But Brown moved Simmons around in the offense during this year’s playoffs, trying to get him looks closer to the basket while putting the ball in Jimmy Butler’s hands. A lot of that had to do with Simmons’ inability to shoot from the perimeter.
Simmons shot 73.3 percent at the rim in his rookie season, but just 36.5 percent from three feet and out. That included missing all 11 of his three-pointers. He also converted 56 percent from the foul line, with his free-throw percentage increasing to 70.7 in the 2018 playoffs.
This season, Simmons shot 70.1 percent at the rim and 38.5 percent from three feet and beyond. He missed his six three-point attempts. Simmons shot 60 percent from the foul line. That percentage dipped slightly to 57.5 percent in the playoffs.
But a lot of his struggles could to be tied to not focusing on working on his outside shooting.
That was due in part because Simmons was a dominant player in high school and his lone season at LSU without having a jump shot. He also was an All-Star this season despite struggling to make shots.
But it appears that he’s now focused on being a better shooter.