Let’s start with this: Ben Simmons is a great basketball player.
There are things he can do on the court that few can. When you look at his handle and vision with his 6-foot-10 frame, it’s a freakish skill set.
Despite being on the cusp of being a perennial All-Star, the obvious flaw in Simmons’ game will continue to haunt him.
Despite his ability to take over games like he did Monday vs. Atlanta, people will point to his struggles in games like Tuesday in Toronto. There’s no doubt Kawhi Leonard is one of — if not the best — wing defenders in the NBA. There’s certainly credit due to Leonard and the Raptors’ defensive plan in general.
Toronto clogged the paint and when Simmons was indecisive, the Raptors pounced. The defense created a few of Simmons’ career-high 11 turnovers, but there were plenty of unforced errors as well. One sequence in the fourth quarter sticks out in particular.
With the Sixers getting the deficit to within six and getting the ball back, Simmons gets to the elbow and then picks up his dribble. He’s in no man’s land and is then pickpocketed by Leonard. It’s great hands and instincts by Leonard, who sagged off Simmons until he picked up his dribble.
But part of the reason that defensive strategy exists is because Simmons doesn’t shoot the basketball. He could’ve pulled up with Leonard playing off him so much. A shot attempt is much more productive than a turnover.
Forget actually making jumpers, Simmons doesn’t even attempt them. On the young season, 56 percent of Simmons’ shots have come from less than five feet — 85 percent from less than nine feet.
Simmons won’t just start chucking up threes. Brett Brown has made that clear and so has Simmons. That’s fine, but Brown has mentioned on more than one occasion that he’d like to see Simmons get comfortable shooting from mid-range.
Simmons has only attempted nine shots further than 10 feet on the season and has made only one. Three of those attempts came in the first game of the season against the Celtics and I wrote at the time that it was great that he was making the effort to take them. Since then: one attempt against Chicago, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Atlanta. He shot two against Toronto, though one was a runner with the shot clock winding down. We need to see more of these shots.
It makes sense that when Simmons is rolling offensively and getting to the basket, he’s less likely to take mid-range jumpers. With that said, it doesn’t make sense for him to start taking them when he can’t get going and his team is struggling offensively. His shot has to become a routine part of his game. It can’t be something he tries to pull out when he’s having a bad night.
Again, this isn’t to attack Simmons. He’s 22 years old and playing at an extremely high level. He’s already an elite two-way player. We all know he works. He talked about working on his shot with his brother during the offseason. You see him taking tons of jumpers and free throws in practice and shootaround.
He’s just been bad in two games this season where it appeared the presence of a jump shot would’ve helped.
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