Will Ben Simmons start shooting 3s this season? If he listens to Brett Brown, yes

Will Ben Simmons start shooting 3s this season? If he listens to Brett Brown, yes

Brett Brown knew the topic was coming.

“We’ll get to Ben [Simmons] in a moment,” he said in the middle of an answer Wednesday afternoon about the Sixers’ perimeter shooting at a luncheon with members of the media in Center City, his first extended public remarks about his team since May. 

He addressed a few other matters first, but Brown did indeed eventually “get to Ben,” a 23-year-old All-Star with perhaps the most discussed jump shot in basketball. Between the last time Brown had spoken about Simmons and Wednesday, a fair amount had happened with his point guard's jump shot.

We’d heard Tobias Harris say Simmons was knocking down three-point jumpers during offseason workouts, looked to Al Horford’s unique development as a shooter for context with Simmons’ situation, gotten Hall of Fame coach Herb Magee’s thoughts on the subject, learned Simmons was withdrawing from the FIBA World Cup to focus on preparing for the season and watched him make a bunch of jump shots in summer pickup games. 

For me, it starts here and here first, completely: the willingness to shoot,” Brown said. “The time that he has invested over the course of this summer is the best by a long shot that he ever has. His awareness of this thing in the marketplace — he's prideful, he gets it. His confidence that I saw when he came back to Philadelphia and played in our gym the past few weeks just stood out. It's shown as if he had invested time, and he was looking forward to showing us, showing his teammates, [showing] me, proving it to himself. I feel like he's going to have a tremendous season again. 

“He's a 23-year-old All-Star. … Overall, my judgment's going to be just a willingness to shoot. Might I at training camp have whoever's guarding Ben just go back to the paint and not defend him on a few? Maybe. But I'm with him. He is our starting point guard. He's my point guard. We're going to grow him as such. This stuff, where you have an opportunity to shoot, will certainly be cheerleaded by me, but most importantly, he's invested the time to shoot the shot better than he has. Now it gets back to that confidence, that willingness to shoot it when the opportunity presents.

How will Brown aim to encourage that confidence, and how far will it extend? Firstly, he said Simmons won’t be spending time in the “dunker spot,” the short corner/low block region Simmons occupied often last year when Jimmy Butler was handling the ball. With Butler’s departure, Simmons will be the team’s primary ball handler.

“I mean, let's face it, I'm sure he didn't like not having the ball in his hands and I don't blame him,” Brown said. “I think to give him the ball back, obviously, would be a more exciting environment then how it played out at the end of last year.”

One might reasonably have anticipated that development as a result of Butler heading to Miami. Where Brown wants Simmons to be when he’s off the ball, however, was perhaps more notable.

“You're probably going to see him in one of the corners,” Brown said. “I'm going to start there. We're going to encourage him to shoot threes.”

Anyone who was followed the Sixers over the last two seasons is likely familiar with Simmons’ history — or lack thereof — as a three-point shooter. He’s 0 for 18 in his NBA career from three-point range, with end-of-quarter heaves making up the large majority of those attempts

The Sixers’ offense is focused on living in the corners this season, with new assistant coach Joseph Blair advocating for tweaks to the team’s spacing principles (see story). If Simmons has improved his jump shot to the point that defenses need to give it some degree of respect, there’s no reason to keep him in the dunker spot.

Brown did later clarify that him “encouraging” Simmons to shoot threes doesn’t equate to an unconditional green light.

“With Ben, we're not going to hunt threes," he said. "When they are available, I want him to shoot them. Just sort of the reckless use of threes doesn't sort of tie into my initial statement of our team being huge. I do think we can play a style of play that is just smash mouth defense and bully ball offense; I think that this team has the ability to do that. So it leans more toward that than let's come down and crank out threes.”

Additionally, although Brown didn’t say this, Simmons shooting a high volume of jump shots at a low percentage would of course hurt the Sixers’ offense. 

As Brown said, however, “once he needs to be guarded, the rules change.” Defenses can’t collapse into the paint on Simmons, he becomes a threat to do more than pass or drive out of the pick-and-roll and there’s no longer one obvious man to use on double teams against Embiid in the post.

We’ve considered these changes in theoretical form for some time. If Simmons listens to his coach and takes jump shots when he’s open this season, we’ll start to shift from the theoretical to the real. 

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Sloppy Sixers drop 10th straight road game to Wizards

Sloppy Sixers drop 10th straight road game to Wizards


Something about Washington, D.C., that causes the Sixers to play bad basketball.

They dropped their 10th straight in the nation’s capital, falling to the Wizards, 119-113, at Capital One Arena Thursday.

The combination of turnovers (21) and a red-hot, 19-point second quarter from Davis Bertans sunk the Sixers as they played Washington’s up-tempo style and not the "bully ball" we’ve seen.

Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) missed his sixth game of the season while the Wizards were without starting center Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction).

The loss drops the Sixers to 15-7 and 5-7 on the road. They return to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night against the Cavaliers.

Here are observations from the loss.

Simmons shines on D but struggles on O

If it wasn’t for Bertans going absolutely nuts from three in the first half — 6 of 6 — this game would’ve looked a lot different early. Bertans cooled off in the second half, but rookie Rui Hachimura picked up the slack (27 points).

Ben Simmons' defense on All-Star Bradley Beal was excellent. Simmons chased Beal around and continued to play at an All-NBA level on defense. Before Bertans erupted, Washington’s offense looked stagnant with its focal point kept in check. For the game, Beal was held to 7 of 24 from the field.

Offensively, Simmons did not have a banner night. He had seven turnovers, far too many against a team in the Wizards who have the lowest-rated defense in the NBA. His unwillingness to shoot and stopping drives short without a plan continues to be issues. He had 17 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals.

Not enough from Embiid

With the Wizards missing their starting center, it made sense for the Sixers to feed Embiid early and often. And that’s exactly what they did early on. Washington doubled frequently but Embiid had a double-double in the first half, putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds.

One knock on Embiid has been him not running rim to rim. To close out the first quarter, there were two sequences where Raul Neto knocked corner threes. On both plays, the attention that Embiid drew led to good ball movement and space.

In the second half, Embiid looked sluggish at times. He also had issues with turnovers, committing eight. On a night when Embiid should've dominated, he put up 26 points on 7 of 12 shooting. Part of that is on the Sixers and Brett Brown for not getting it into Embiid enough. He did have 21 rebounds.

Tobias the scorer

We’ve heard Brown talk a ton about Tobias Harris needing to have a “scorer’s mentality.” Even after practice Wednesday, Brown again said that he felt like Harris was passing up a couple looks a game that he should be taking.

Harris was feeling it early and looking awfully confident with 16 points in the first half (2 of 4 from three, 7 of 14 overall).

And another example of Harris attacking.

Harris did all he could, putting up 33 points on 13 of 28 (3 of 8 from three). He just didn’t get much help. 

Thybulle looking comfortable

We all understand what Matisse Thybulle brings on the defensive end of the floor. He continued to be his usual disruptive self and helped cool off Bertans when nobody else on the Sixers could. As the Sixers made a run in the fourth quarter, it was Thybulle who had a series of impressive plays — including a couple on Beal. He had a pair of steals and blocks.

Thybulle has shot the ball well lately, but on Thursday, his driving and passing were on display. He dished a season-high six assists.

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Sixers at Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (15-6), winners of four in a row and eight of their last nine, will look to get to the .500 mark on the road when they visit the Wizards (6-13) Thursday night.

Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) remains out. He did individualized workouts the last two days at practice, but the team is being cautious as Richardson will miss his fourth straight game. Shake Milton (right hip discomfort) will be available.

Washington will be without starting center Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction) and veteran wing C.J. Miles (left wrist). Backup bigs Ian Mahinmi (right Achilles strain) and Moritz Wagner (left ankle sprain) are available. 

Here are tonight's essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Capital One Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

The competition

Rookie Matisse Thybulle has wreaked havoc on the defensive end in almost every one of his appearances this season. He leads all rookies with 29 steals and is third among them in deflections — despite playing far less minutes than the other first-year players at the top of the list.

But it hasn’t just been Thybulle that’s been so disruptive. Ben Simmons, who looks well on his way to earning some type of All-Defensive team honors, leads the NBA in steals and is second in deflections.

A competition has formed.

“I’d say it’s me, him and J-Rich when it comes to steals, trying to see who can get the most, within reason, without trying to put guys in tough positions,” Thybulle said after practice Tuesday. “I think it’s cool that we have that competitiveness. You’ve seen it with Ben, he’s changed games — he’s won games — with steals down the stretch. I think it’s cool to have that little competition within ourselves.”

The caveat of not “trying to put guys in tough positions” is important here. Thybulle has been walking the fine line all season of being disruptive and not leaving his teammates out to dry. To Thybulle’s credit, you can see the improvement. And to Brett Brown’s credit, he admitted before the Jazz game that he needs to be more tolerant with Thybulle.

Despite playing at the fastest pace in the NBA, the Wizards are one of the better teams in the league at taking care of the basketball. Something will have to give Thursday night.

Feed Embiid

Joel Embiid is the focal point of the Sixers’ offense and that shouldn’t change against Washington. He’ll likely see plenty of rookie Rui Hachimura playing the five with the Wizards’ frontcourt so banged up. With that, Embiid is likely to see plenty of double teams and possibly even some zone.

It’ll be on the other Sixers to make plays and shots around Embiid, who has improved greatly in navigating double teams. They should be able to expose Washington’s defense. The Wizards have the worst-rated defense in the NBA and give up the third-most points per game.

Beal is the real deal

News flash: Bradley Beal is really freaking good. And he’s having one of his best seasons. He’s averaging 28.7 points and 7.2 assists a game — both marks would be career highs. He’s taking the most threes he ever has so his percentage is down, but he’s getting to the line just a little under seven times a game. 

And Beal’s supporting cast is no joke on the offensive end. The Sixers will have their hands full with how Davis Bertans (44.6 percent) and Isaiah Thomas (41 percent) are shooting from three. With that said, both players can be exposed on the defensive end.

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