Ben Simmons’ jump shot has been and will continue to be an obsession for Sixers fans.
But lost in that fixation is one fact some may be forgetting: Simmons is really freaking good.
There weren’t many positives from Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics. Actually, Simmons’ play might be the only positive. The reigning Rookie of the Year recorded 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. If the Sixers didn’t shoot so poorly (19 percent from three, 39 overall), he would’ve easily recorded his 13th career triple-double.
What Simmons proved against a Boston team that stifled him throughout their series last season is that he’s more than capable of taking games over — even without a jumper. Without Simmons, the turnover-happy Sixers would’ve likely been blown out in the first half instead of trailing by only five.
The skills he showed off are at the level of only a few players in NBA history.
What sort of witchcraft is this, Ben Simmons?!?— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 17, 2018
What a pass to Fultz. Sixers trail, 38-36. pic.twitter.com/jz5AKtPnxq
The court vision and awareness are off the charts.
DO NOT GET IN THIS MANS WAY.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 17, 2018
Embiid with a nasty dunk as the Sixers trail through the second. pic.twitter.com/WKjzhXckSa
This splitting of the defense in the open court is so special.
What’s impressive is that Simmons played 43 minutes and only turned the ball over three times. When you consider how often Simmons handles the basketball and how fast of a pace he plays, that’s actually pretty remarkable.
It was also interesting to see Simmons post up more. He did so in the preseason, most notably in the game in Shanghai. In the first half of that game, Simmons posted up seven times. It led to the following: bucket, foul, an open Landry Shamet three (missed), foul, bucket, foul and foul. This could also be a thing that allows Simmons and Markelle Fultz to play more together (see story). It lets Fultz handle the ball more and put Simmons in more of a point forward role.
And lost in the drubbing is that the Sixers actually played pretty well defensively. The Celtics shot just 40 percent and just 29 percent from three. Simmons played a large part in that. He was excellent on the ball and had active hands, recording four steals and two blocks.
This may be the most underrated part of Simmons’ game. At just 22, he has a chance to become an elite defensive player. His size coupled with his quick feet make him a nightmare matchup on the offensive end. Those are also the qualities that could lead to him becoming a top echelon defender.
As far as the jumper goes, you can tell he’s making an effort. Simmons took three jumpers around the elbow area — all misses but they were all right there. He doesn’t need to hit threes or even shots from just inside the arc. He can get to that elbow area pretty much any time he wants. Despite the misses, this is a shot he just needs to keep taking.
The free throws are an issue. He hit just 5 of 11 free throws after shooting just 56 percent from the line last year. With his ability to play downhill and be aggressive around the basket, he needs to convert his opportunities from the charity stripe.
Simmons is already an elite player. Maybe if we take our attention off his jumper for two seconds, we’d see that he’s developing into one of the best two-way players in the league.
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