ORLANDO – A lot has been made of Ben Simmons’ perimeter shooting. And it’s understandable.
As the 76ers point guard noted last week, he became an All-Star without making a three-pointer in a game. So just imagine how dominant he would be if he starts occasionally making them. Let’s face it, the Australian is hard to stop in transition, and at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds he is a matchup problem. He’s too big for point guards to defend and too athletic for forwards to stop.
The only thing he hadn’t done until Tuesday’s preseason game against the Guangzhou Long-Lions was make a three-pointer. Yet, we’ve seen the videos of him knocking down threes and mid-range jumpers while working out in Los Angeles this summer with trainer Chris Johnson.
Those videos have some people hoping that he’ll showcase any type of jump shot more frequently.
Fans in Winston-Salem got their wish Friday night when the Sixers took on the in-state Charlotte Hornets. The 10,437 in attendance gave him a loud applause when he made a 14-foot fadeaway jumper in the first quarter.
But that didn’t compare to the reaction of his three-pointer against the Lions. Videos of the shot and mentions of it went viral on social media.
It seems like the only two people in Philly who weren’t giddy were Simmons and Sixers coach Brett Brown.
On the court, Simmons looked like he was embarrassed by his teammates’ reaction to the wide-open 27-foot basket with 2.3 seconds left in the half. After the game, Brown downplayed the milestone.
He was right to do so.
Here’s why: The Sixers’ NBA title chances won’t come down to Simmons’ made or missed three-pointers.
Yeah, he’ll need to attempt and then first make three-pointers and mid-range jumpers to keep defenders honest ... when left wide open.
Last season, opponents backed off Simmons when he had the ball on the perimeter. At times, he wasn’t guarded at all because he wouldn’t shoot. That put the Sixers at a huge disadvantage.
As a result, Brown moved Simmons around in the offense during the playoffs, trying to get him looks closer to the basket and putting the ball in Jimmy Butler’s hands. That’s why he worked so hard this offseason on his shot and being comfortable taking it.
But shooting jumpers -- whether from 25 feet or 15 -- just for the sake of shooting them will put the Sixers at a disadvantage.
Simmons is at his best creating for others in transition.
Standing behind the three-point line and hoisting three-pointers is what opposing teams want him to do and are going to keep playing off him, encouraging him to do so.
That’s one way to make sure Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson won’t get enough touches to beat you.
“I am so much more on letting him feature on an all-defensive team,” 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 nobody is around him.
“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.”
How can he?
For his career, he’s 0-for-17 on three-pointers in the regular season. Simmons is now 1-for-2 in the preseason for his career.
“I know what I’m good at,” Simmons said. “I know what I’m great at. There’s thing I need to work on, but my game is not going to change in a day.
“I’m not going to come out and be shooting lights-out like [Golden State’s] Klay [Thompson] and Steph [Curry] or guys like them. My game is developing, and I work hard.”
The hard work is paying off as shown in the first two preseason games. However, he’s far from a finished product in regards to three-point shooting. Even if he was, Simmons is an All-Star because of his vision and play in the open court, not as a sharpshooter.
Sure, he’s worked hard to feel comfortable about taking and making wide-open shot when need be. But Simmons and the folks encouraging him to shoot more can’t feed into the “Ben the great three-point shooter” hype, especially when that’s what opponents will be begging him to do.