Ben Simmons appears to lack confidence as a shooter, but his legit attempt from beyond the arc on Sunday looks like a sign that’s changing.
Over 136 NBA games now, Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons has attempted just 14 3-pointers. Every other part of his game is solid, as he’s averaging 16.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game this season, but he’s so bad as a shooter (including 59.4 percent from the line this season) there’s been speculation he should be shooting right-handed.
Going into Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Simmons’ career attempts from beyond the arc have been halfcourt heaves and attempts to beat a clock when there was no other choice. But there he was, almost a minute into the second half against the Lakers, within the flow of the 76ers’ normal offense, confidently stepping into a 3-pointer when he was left open.
The audible reaction from the home crowd says it all, and the shot almost went in. But with how LeBron James was guarding him on Sunday, and the way the rest of the NBA guards him, Simmons has to be willing to pull the trigger from beyond the arc.
During the sequence below, as the first half wound down, James is sagging back all the way into the key, daring Simmons to shoot, and effectively making it 5-on-4 below the foul line until J.J. Redick comes around to take a pass.
Speaking after the game about Simmons’ shot, Redick said he wasn’t surprised by it. But Joel Embiid spoke for the majority, saying “Are you sure?” and reflecting on his own thought in the moment (“What just happened?”)
76ers’ coach Brett Brown suggested he’s talked recently with Simmons about shooting more from the perimeter, with last year’s playoff series against the Boston Celtics as a reference point. As the 76ers integrate newly acquired Tobias Harris into the mix, in preparation for a deep run in this year’s playoffs, having another 3-point shooting threat on the floor might be nice.
On the notion Simmons should not be afraid to let it fly, Embiid spoke to his own shortcomings as a 3-point shooter (29.7 percent this season).
He’s been working on it, and every day we tell him you’ve got to shoot it,” Embiid said. “I’m a 30 percent three-point shooter, and you’ve got guys that jump on my fake. I don’t understand how that’s possible, but they still do.
There’s a line somewhere, and no one is calling for Simmons to suddenly become a volume 3-point shooter on the level of James Harden or Steph Curry. But he has to be willing to take the shots when they’re given to him, and Sunday’s near-miss looks like a good sign.