Sixers

An interesting trend with Simmons' shooting and what it means

Sixers

Ben Simmons finished second on the Sixers this season in true shooting percentage, behind only Shake Milton.

Sixers' TS% leaders this season (Minimum 20 games)

  • Shake Milton: 61.7%
  • Ben Simmons: 60.2%
  • Joel Embiid: 59.0%
  • Furkan Korkmaz: 57.9%

If you’re unfamiliar with the statistic, that might sound odd. Ben Simmons almost leading the Sixers in a shooting category? An explanation of what true shooting percentage is and why Simmons has actually been rising in that stat might clarify things. 

True shooting percentage captures a player’s shooting efficiency, incorporating free throws and the fact that threes are worth more than twos. It’s calculated using the following formula: PTS/[2*(FGA+0.44*FTA)]. 

Over his three healthy NBA seasons, Simmons’ true shooting percentage has gone from 55.7 to 58.2 to 60.2. That’s partly because of his gradual improvement as a free throw shooter, but it’s also because of an interesting trend: He’s taking fewer of the shots he doesn’t make very often.

General manager Elton Brand described Simmons’ approach well on Feb. 7. The two-time All-Star’s first instinct always seems to be attempting shots he knows he can covert at a good rate and avoiding ones he isn’t sure he can. 

“He wants to make the best play every time, the highest-percentage play,” Brand said. “That's just the way he's motored. That's the way his motor works.”

Simmons made two three-pointers this season — four if you count his preseason three against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions and his Disney World scrimmage three vs. the Grizzlies — but was less willing to fire from the perimeter overall than in the 2018-19 season. He was less effective on those rare attempts, too. 

 

Simmons from 10 feet and out

  • 2017-18: 70 of 230 in 81 games (30.4%)
  • 2018-19: 25 of 105 in 79 games (23.8%)
  • 2019-20: 6 of 37 in 57 games (16.2%)

We’ve discussed Simmons’ shot many times over the past few years, with the latest installment being the “paradigm shift” Brett Brown said that he’d seen post-hiatus in Simmons’ willingness to take open jumpers. Simmons’ left knee injury in the Sixers’ third seeding game prevented us from getting a great idea of whether anything had meaningfully changed. He did shoot 1 for 2 from long distance in that aforementioned scrimmage against Memphis and also missed a corner three vs. the Wizards. 

Moving forward, what does Simmons’ downward trend in effectiveness from 10 feet and out and upward trend in overall shooting efficiency mean? It’s a nuanced question, and how Doc Rivers decides to use him will play a role. Simmons tends to be presented with more pull-up jumpers as a conventional point guard and more corner threes as a “point forward.” How he takes advantage of the room teams give him and his off-ball spacing will continue to be important factors regardless of position (see film review).

On a fundamental level, it may boil down to whether Simmons will eventually expand his game and, in the process, risk becoming a less efficient shooter.