It’s been a recurring theme not only this season but throughout his career that Ben Simmons needs to work on some sort of jumper, even from medium range, in order to expand his game to the benefit of the 76ers.
When Simmons hit a pull-up, 14-foot shot in Saturday’s 117-93 win against the host Oklahoma City Thunder, it was a shock to many Sixers fans (and probably his teammates).
Simmons looked natural on this pull-up jumper in the second quarter from 14 feet.
The reason onlookers had every right to be surprised is that according to NBA.com stats, that was only the 10th shot in 32 attempts that Simmons had made from between 10 to 14 feet. Of the 10 made field goals, Saturday’s was the longest at 14 feet, with four of them from 10 feet.
Simmons has been in a funk and his aggressiveness on Saturday was encouraging to fellow All-Star Joel Embiid. In the first quarter against OKC Simmons scored 10 points, shooting 4-for-5 and hitting 2 of 3 foul shots.
After the first quarter, Simmons would make only one more shot, the aforementioned 14-footer. He only attempted four shots after the first quarter.
Yet after averaging just 9.8 points over the previous six games, he scored 13.
After the game Embiid was asked if would like to see Simmons scoring a little more.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” said Embiid, who scored 27 points in his fourth game back after missing 10 due to a left knee bone bruise. “First of all, I want him to be aggressive every single game, whether he is making plays or whether he should look for his shot, he has to be aggressive and make guys on the other team guard him.”
Against the Thunder, two of Simmons’ five field goals were pull-up jumpers, one from 9 feet and the other from 14.
“Like tonight, we saw it, I was really excited when he made those two shots,” Embiid said. “He is starting to be comfortable, he is getting back to where he was right before the All-Star break, so he has to keep doing it.”
Actually, that isn’t entirely true. In his previous seven games before Saturday, Simmons was only averaging 8.0 field goal attempts per game.
Even in Saturday’ game, he was very aggressive in the first quarter, only to settle more as a distributor the rest of the way.
It still will take more than attempting -- or even making -- a few jump shots for Simmons to have defenders guard him tighter. He’s so explosive going to the basket that defenders play him for the drive and concede the jumper. That will continue until Simmons attempts and makes more jumpers.
The biggest stride Simmons made was that he committed no turnovers after having six in Friday’s 101-94 loss at New Orleans.
In his previous 11 games before Saturday, he had averaged 4.0 turnovers compared to just 5.8 assists. There is a difference between being aggressive and reckless.
“That’s how he has to be every night, have a better understanding of the flow of the game, which I didn’t think as a team we understood that [Friday in a loss at New Orleans],” Rivers said. “We got the ball to the hot hand, I thought that was great [Saturday] and Ben was responsible for most of it.”
Not to take away from his accomplishment, but it came against a Thunder team that is 20-33, has lost six in a row, nine of 10, and was playing without injured leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Simmons and the Sixers should have a much stronger test when they visit Dallas on Monday. The Mavericks took a 29-22 record into Sunday’s home game against San Antonio.