There are questions about Ben Simmons’ game.
Can he really shoot? Will he shoot? Where does he fit best in the 76ers’ talented offense?
Simmons goes into his third playing season as an All-Star with a lot to prove.
The blueprint to stop the electrifying point guard was out there. Sag off or don’t even guard him at all in the perimeter. He would not shoot the ball, the scouting report said. As a result, he lost his mojo and the Sixers lost their effectiveness with him as the primary ballhandler in the halfcourt.
All that supposedly changed this summer when videos of him making three-pointers and all types of perimeter shots went viral as he worked out with renowned trainer Chris Johnson.
Yet Simmons attempted only one three-point attempt in the three preseason games. That attempt was a nonchalant, pressure-free shot that wouldn’t have been a big deal if he missed. With the clock winding down in the first half, the Guangzhou Loong-Lions defenders in a zone defense and the Sixers up 38 points, Simmons did what the crowd and his teammates urged him to do -- he fired up and drained a 27-footer.
“I am confident to say I am not a great shooter,” he said last week. “I am getting better, though. It is a game. It is five people on the court. I lack something that I am not that great at, but other areas I am very great at. I run the floor as well as anybody."
He noted that at 6-foot-10, he can rebound and can guard any of the five positions.
“That is one thing that is coming into my game which I am excited about,” he said of perimeter shooting. “I love getting better. I love spending time in the gym and building that confidence.”
Simmons will need to attempt and make three-pointers to ensure that defenders don’t continue to sag off him in the perimeter. At the same time, too many three-point shots could benefit the Sixers’ opponents.
Right now, his strength is facilitating the ball in the open court.
"I am so much more on letting him [focus on making] all-defensive team,” coach Brett Brown said. “I am so much more concerned about letting him be himself in the open court, the fastest player in the NBA.”
The coach hopes Simmons feels confident enough to take a catch-and-shoot three-pointer when he’s open. (He’s 0-for-17 in his career in the regular season.)
“But to get it all twisted that this is going to be the thing that defines him, it isn’t,” the coach said. “I feel like it’s such a repetitive conversation that I’m personally tired of it. I don’t see the world like that.”
Simmons, who is 23, comes into this season with career averages of 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.6 steals in 160 games. He has 22 triple-doubles.
“I know what I’m good at,” Simmons said. “I know what I’m great at. There’s things I need to work on. But my game is not going to change in a day.