An interesting trend with Simmons' shooting and what it means


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.