When asked about taking more jump shots Monday at his exit interview in Camden, New Jersey, Ben Simmons said, “It’s important. It’s very important.”
He didn’t have much more to add on the subject. At 22 years old, Simmons has won a Rookie of the Year award and made an All-Star Game, and yet the topic of his shot is unavoidable.
After making 70 of 230 shots (30.4 percent) from 10 feet and out as a rookie, per Basketball-Reference, Simmons made 25 of 105 this season (23.8 percent). While he improved in the post, played elite defense at times and bumped his free-throw percentage up from 56 to 60 percent, Simmons did the opposite of expand his perimeter game. Every non-heave three-point attempt was a noteworthy event.
How will he work on his shot this offseason?
“Repetition,” Simmons said.
Does he think he needs to shoot more in general?
Simmons confirmed he’ll continue to work with his brother Liam, and Brett Brown endorsed that partnership Tuesday.
I have known his brother since he was 4 years old. He is a basketball coach and he is a committed basketball coach. Is he too close to produce results? I don’t think so. And in fact, I think that with the family there is an insulation, in a good way, to call him out, to help him get into a gym. There’s not any head fake or fear of a choice of words to get him into a gym and work. To Ben’s credit, that hasn’t been pulling teeth. He has put in time. I think if you look at his free-throw percentage from last year to this year, although it’s not a significant jump, he has improved. As I’ve said to all of you many times, I wish he would have experienced greater improvement because I believe his work warranted that.
Elton Brand said Tuesday that Simmons doesn't work with his brother "on organization time, on team time," but he doesn't have any issues with Simmons doing so while away from the team.
For Simmons, a player capable of routinely recording triple-doubles and scoring 30 points in playoff games, you can imagine all the questions about an area of his game that’s somewhere between poor and nonexistent might be exasperating.
He can do other things to improve besides taking and making more jumpers — becoming a better finisher around the rim, reducing his turnovers and continuing to develop his post game would all benefit Simmons. And though the jumper is the thing everyone is focused on, it sounds like Simmons wants to take a holistic approach.
“I think for me, I just want to get better all around," Simmons said. "Become a better and more efficient player. Just keep growing into a better player. There's no one individual spot. I'm going to work on everything and continue to let my game grow.
“I think the one thing I definitely got a lot better at this season was my leadership. I think being a younger guy, being on a team like this, just speaking up and just trying to motivate guys, help guys get better and try to win games.”
That Simmons, in his second healthy NBA season, was undoubtedly a leader on a team that was about as close as you can get to the conference finals without actually being in them is impressive and unusual. His unmatched speed, along with the ball handling and passing abilities he has at 6-foot-10, fall into the same categories.
Yet, unless Simmons makes incredible progress with his jumper this summer, his track record suggests that taking more mid-range jumpers would contradict his goal of being a “more efficient player.” His 25.4 percent shooting percentage from 10-14 feet this regular season was second worst among all players who took at least 60 such shots, per NBA.com/Stats. Between 15 and 19 feet, Simmons shot 2 for 21.
This summer, though, Simmons has another opportunity to improve the one part of his game nobody will stop talking about.
"We’ve had great, direct conversations," Brand said. "He’s 22 years old, Rookie of the Year, already an All-Star, and he’s committed to getting better. Our exit meeting was about things that he’s working on. Of course everyone says shooting, but just be comfortable shooting. His defense was elite this year. So many facets to his game that are going to grow, and he’s only scratched the surface. Again, he’s 22. So, great future and great core piece for us."
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