Ben Simmons worked with his brother this offseason to improve jump shot

Ben Simmons worked with his brother this offseason to improve jump shot

CAMDEN, N.J. — When you get to study under a father with over a decade of professional hoops experience and are blessed with a physique straight from the basketball gods, the game can come to you a bit effortlessly at times.

Perhaps even too much.

“I’ve never been on a team where I’ve had to take shots. It’s always been really easy for me to get to the rim,” Ben Simmons said during Sixers media day. “For me to get to that next level and for me to want to be great, I have to keep getting better at the little things. It’s obviously not going to be an overnight thing or a year thing where I’m at the next level, but over time with progression, I’ll get better.”

It wasn’t always easy watching Simmons’ jump shot last season. By now, you know the numbers: 0 for 11 from three-point range (all heaves, but still goes down as a goose egg), 56 percent from the free throw line and 27.8 percent on midrange jumpers.

Things reached a bit of an alarming level on the biggest stage against the Boston Celtics. During the Eastern Conference semifinals, C’s head coach Brad Stevens was content to let his players sag off of Simmons on defense and force him to take that less-than-trustworthy jumper. It resulted in the 22-year-old shooting 26.7 percent on shots between five and nine feet, 25 percent on shots between eight and 14 feet and getting blanked on shots between 15-19 feet.

That made Simmons want to dive right back into the lab and work on that glaring weakness. But instead of hiring some famed shot doctor or high-priced trainer, the Rookie of the Year kept the task of improving his shot in the family … literally.

Simmons worked with his brother Liam, a former college player at San Diego Christian and assistant coach at Nicholls State, Southwest Baptist University and Cal-Riverside.

“Comfortability with him, him knowing my game, and him just being dedicated to me and purely just me,” Simmons said on why he chose his brother for the job. “I’ve been working with him since I was a kid. He’s always had the ball in my hands where he’s been working the gym. 

“There’s been multiple times where I’ve been frustrated and not really understanding why he was pushing me so hard. I think I’m at a level of age now where I really realize and understand where he’s trying to get me at. He’s somebody I really trust and I can really just talk to a certain way and him understand how I’m looking at things.”

Simmons disclosed that some of his brother’s coaching included tweaks to how he holds the ball and getting under his shot. 

But no matter how much improvement he makes to his jump shooting mechanics, Simmons let Sixers fans know they can still expect the all-around phenom they got used to seeing last season.

“I want to keep getting better and keep working toward being great,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of time. I’m not going to come in and hit threes this season. That’s not what I’m gonna do, but I’m gonna get better. Obviously, I’ve been working all summer and I’m very confident on what I’ve been putting my work into.”

More on the Sixers

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons out for Hawks game with back injury, will have additional evaluation Monday

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons out for Hawks game with back injury, will have additional evaluation Monday

Ben Simmons went through an initial evaluation on his back Sunday in Philadelphia, will have an additional evaluation Monday and is out for the Sixers’ game tomorrow night vs. the Atlanta Hawks, a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

Simmons missed Thursday’s game vs. the Nets with lower back soreness and irritated the injury in the first quarter Saturday night against the Bucks. 

Head coach Brett Brown said Thursday that Simmons was injured at the team’s practice Wednesday.

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

After drawing a foul on Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez with 7:21 left in the first on a running hook shot, Simmons put his hands on his knees and appeared in discomfort. He stayed in to make 1 of 2 free throws, and the Sixers then had Matisse Thybulle commit a foul to stop the game and allow Simmons to return to the locker room.

Before Saturday, Simmons had been averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists this season in a team-high 36.3 minutes per game. The two-time All-Star has an NBA-best 115 steals. 

Simmons had entered the All-Star break strong, with a 26-point triple-double in the Sixers’ Feb. 11 win over the Clippers. 

He’d posted 20.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game in the final 18 contests before the All-Star Game, shooting 68.9 percent from the foul line during that stretch. When Joel Embiid was out with a torn ligament in his left ring finger, Simmons had carried the Sixers to a 6-3 record. 

With 25 regular-season games remaining, the Sixers are 35-22 and fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They have a 26-2 home record, best in the NBA, and a 9-20 away mark that’s the worst of any team currently in a playoff position. The team’s remaining schedule is the easiest in the league.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

If Ben Simmons is sidelined for an extended period, how will Sixers adapt?

If Ben Simmons is sidelined for an extended period, how will Sixers adapt?

We don’t need to spend much time explaining how and why Ben Simmons is very valuable for the Sixers. 

The two-time All-Star leads the NBA in steals and, before irritating a lower back injury Saturday night in Milwaukee, was averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds.

Of course, the Sixers will hope the injury doesn’t keep Simmons out for long. The question of how the Sixers will manage if Simmons’ injury does sideline him for an extended period of time, however, deserves attention.

Who’d be in the starting lineup? 

Though Raul Neto started in Simmons’ place Thursday against the Nets, he didn’t play against the Bucks until the game was well out of hand.

Shake Milton handled much of the point guard duties after Simmons left and was solid, making 5 of 7 three-point shots and scoring 17 points.

Josh Richardson and Alec Burks are other ball handling options, with Brett Brown seeming to prefer Burks’ “scoring punch” off the bench.

In his second NBA season, Milton has posted 6.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, shooting 36.9 percent from three. The 23-year-old was on a two-way contract with the Sixers as a rookie and starred with the Delaware Blue Coats, scoring 24.9 points per game in the G League.

Who else would be impacted? 

Between Jan. 25 and Feb. 9, Milton started eight straight games for the Sixers because of Richardson’s hamstring injury. Brown didn’t play him as much as a typical starter during that stretch, giving him 25.4 minutes per game. He only exceeded 30 minutes once, when he scored a career-high 27 points on Jan. 30 in Atlanta.

Milton again would not likely be assuming full-on starters minutes. Perhaps Richardson and Burks would combine for a greater sum of backup point guard minutes than usual. If Richardson were to handle backup point guard duties, that would presumably mean Glenn Robinson III, Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle would have more minutes to take on the wing. 

Simmons was averaging a team-high 36.3 minutes entering Saturday’s game, so there is simply a lot of playing time that would need to be allocated among multiple players. 

Where would the Sixers suffer the most? 

The defense would take a big hit. The on-off stats mysteriously indicate that the Sixers have been a better defensive team with Simmons not on the floor, but they’d clearly be losing one of the best defenders in the game. 

Along with being first in steals, Simmons has the most total deflections and the most defensive loose balls recovered. He can defend opposing stars and, in general, most point guards, wings and power forwards. The Sixers would not be able to replace that defensive versatility or overall quality.

They’d obviously gain something in terms of outside shooting but would lose a lot in other offensive areas. Simmons has assisted on more threes than any player this season.

How much would it hurt overall? 

Because Simmons has played in 214 of a possible 221 regular-season games over the last three seasons, we don’t have any meaningful track record of how the Sixers tend to fare without him.

Joel Embiid would be the focus of a Simmons-less team, and it would make sense for the offense to involve more Embiid post-ups than ever.

The most basic formula for success without Simmons would be an elite Embiid on both ends of the floor, Milton and other guards succeeding in expanded roles, and Tobias Harris and Al Horford being better across the board, especially as three-point shooters. It’s not impossible that all those pieces would come together, but it would be a lot to ask. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers