Ben Simmons sat there for a moment with a puzzled look on his face.
It was the day after the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs and a reporter asked the point guard about his struggles during the postseason.
“I wouldn’t say struggle,” the ever-confident Simmons responded while shaking his head. “I think I’m just learning.”
Let’s think about that for a second. A guy who averaged 16.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists over 10 games during his initial foray into postseason basketball said it was all just a learning experience.
There are players around the league that would trade just about anything to “struggle” in that fashion.
But not Simmons. The prodigy expects more of himself, even after a season that saw him record 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 boards a night in 81 regular-season games, notch a dozen triple-doubles and easily secure the Rookie of the Year award.
“I think overall I had a solid year,” Simmons said that same day on May 10. “Ups and downs like everything, but I think I learned a lot and there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
While most would view the starting point of improving being Simmons’ much-discussed jump shot, there may be another area that will help him take a leap in 2018-19: decision-making.
As the Sixers’ starting PG, Simmons rightfully had the ball in his hands a ton last season. Most of that time was spent keeping the offense flowing as he was No. 1 in the NBA in passes made (74.1) and No. 2 in passes received (78.4) per game.
Those numbers obviously have a lot to do with the Sixers’ sets being primarily jumpstarted by dribble handoffs, but the 22-year-old’s unselfishness while orchestrating the attack also played a major role in those averages.
Now imagine Simmons with a full year of on-court experience under his belt and a better understanding of his surroundings. He’ll have more knowledge of where his teammates’ sweet spots are on the floor, how opposing teams plan to defend him and when to dish the rock or call his own number to attack the rim.
That should help curb some of Simmons’ 3.4 turnovers a night and could even open up more lanes to increase his sixth-highest drives to the basket per game (15.5).
“The type of team we have now we like to play together as a team and move the ball and I think everybody knows that coming into the Sixers organization,” Simmons said when being interviewed during a Sixers summer league game earlier this month. “That’s how we play.”
Oh, and if he does happen to develop that jumper that Sixers fans are craving from the 6-foot-10 lefty, look out.
“I think offensively it’s going to be tough to stop me,” Simmons said in May on what he would be like with an improved jump shot. “Then obviously with the team, we have another guy who can knock down shots and score. Then also a guy who can make plays. So I think it’s going to be scary.”
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