Sixers point guard Ben Simmons wound up with a double-double almost by accident in Tuesday’s 104-97 win over the Jazz. It wasn’t the most sparkling performance, with a line of 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks bogged down somewhat by five fouls and six turnovers. Simmons was a marvel all the same.
Plus, Simmons’ shot chart from the contest is a thing of beauty – absolutely no sarcasm intended.
Simmons was only 7 of 22 shooting from the field for the game, and five of those buckets were dunks or layups. That means he was 2 of 17 from everywhere else. Take away a couple of hooks that wouldn’t go, and a desperation heave while the shot clock was winding down, and Simmons still only shot 14.3 percent from eight feet and beyond.
Yet the two shots Simmons made – a 15-foot jumper and a 13-foot pull-up – were important, and not merely because they were good for four points in a tight game.
If Simmons a threat to hit that shot at all, opponents will have to respect it.
That’s what started to happen as the game wore on against the Jazz. Oftentimes, defenders will sag off of Simmons around the foul line and dare him to shoot. But as he continued to shoot, more and more, defenders came out to contest it.
Knocking one or two down earlier certainly didn’t hurt, either.
Perhaps the larger and more imperative development here is Simmons was taking so many midrange shots and shots outside the restricted area in the first place. Excluding backcourt shots, the 21-year-old has attempted 49 field goals from eight to 24 feet in 10 games. Thirteen of those alone, or more than a quarter, came against the Jazz.
Obviously, Simmons’ percentage needs to rise for that jump shot to become a true asset to his game. For right now at least, even the threat of shooting can affect the defense. He was a little unlucky, too, as there were a few shots that rimmed out or were just a little heavy – touch he’ll hone with experience.
Simmons also won’t turn into a better shooter if he never works on it or takes a shot in a meaningful NBA game. Maybe the promising aspect of all is the simple fact that over the past couple games, he does appear to be making a more concerted effort to pull up once in awhile. Earlier in the year, he seemed almost afraid to shoot.
As incredible as he is, Simmons needs to shoot if he wants to prevent teams from sitting on his drive, which is a big part of what makes him so special in the first place. So keep firing, Ben. It wasn’t always pretty, but seeing an increased willingness to put the ball up is a positive sign.