Stop if you have heard this before: Ben Simmons has been a willing shooter during the 76ers practices, as they continue working toward the restart of the NBA season.
Simmons’ reluctance to shoot not only three-pointers, but even medium-range shots, has been well documented.
After Thursday’s practice at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Sixers coach Brett Brown not only talked about Simmons’ versatile game but his willingness to shoot from distance.
“I think ... the variety of ways that we’re trying to use him helps in some capacity, and I think maybe most helpful is his mentality, like he’s coming down here with just a tremendous spirit. His three-point shot is looking good,” Brown said.
This is not the first time we’ve heard this, but Brown had more.
“You know, he shot more threes in practice the last few days than he might have for almost half-a-season, and he looks good,” said Brown, who earlier this week raved about Simmons moving from point guard to playing not only power forward, but all over the court. “He feels good. And I know he is getting tremendous encouragement from his teammates.”
One of those teammates is Shake Milton, who has taken over Simmons’ point-guard role.
“He is taking shots, and he is knocking them down,” Milton said.
Even if Simmons isn’t playing point guard, the NBA has become such a perimeter league that regardless of his position, the ability to stretch a defense with a three-pointer is vital.
Statistics don’t lie when illustrating Simmons’ reluctance to shoot from distance. He has attempted just 23 threes in his three seasons and has made two, both this season (2 for 6).
It’s not just three-pointers that Simmons has been shy in attempting. According to NBA.com stats, he has tried 617 field goals this season. Of that, 583 (94.4%) have been from 9 feet or in. He has only 22 field-goal attempts from 10 to 14 feet and five from 15 to 19 feet.
To Simmons’ credit, he has become a two-time All-Star without a perimeter game. Milton says Simmons’ all-around game has been clearly evident during camp.
“He’s still athletic, can finish with either hand, still is a very unselfish and willing, great passer,” Milton said. “He is doing a good job leading the team, too, so he’s performing well.”
Despite shooting more threes in practices, the 6-foot-10 Simmons will likely be operating more around the basket.The Sixers have found that Simmons is strong in the pick-and-roll, especially as the roller.
“We can feed off each other because we both can pass, and it makes it easy because you know you throw it out anywhere around the rim he’s going to get it,” Milton said. “So, I feel our relationship on the court is constantly growing.”
During the first week of practice at the restart bubble, there has been a positive vibe about Milton’s expanded role and Simmons adjusting to his role, but eventually, teams will make Simmons show that he is willing to shoot from the perimeter.
The Sixers have three scrimmages and eight “seed” games, beginning on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers, to work things out. For now, Brown seems to like the offensive versatility he has seen in Simmons.
“You just use him in a bunch of ways, and you see all the different ways that he can score,” Brown said.