Ben Simmons’s extreme reluctance to attempt shots from outside the paint during his two healthy NBA seasons has been overshadowed somewhat by both the vastly stranger shooting struggles of a fellow 76ers top pick, and by Simmons’s own general two-way excellence. But his shooting stroke has been badly busted, and the refusal to attempt jumpers has mostly to do with Simmons’s acceptance of the fact that he has never been likely to make any.
However excellent Simmons is already, it should not be controversial to say that he would be a better basketball player if he could comfortably take and make three-pointers, just as it is obvious and inarguable that 76ers lineups featuring Simmons will have an easier time getting buckets in the half-court if opponents have any reason whatsoever to guard Simmons away from the basket. A whopping 845 of his 949 shot attempts last season came from within 10 feet of the basket—that kind of distribution, from a ball-dominant guard, forces the offense to contort itself in unconventional and often uncomfortable ways in order to maximize spacing. Certainly Joel Embiid’s job would be easier if sometimes he could be the one of the two of them who finishes a pick play inside the paint.
There’s hope on the horizon! Simmons appears to be getting marginally more comfortable attempting shots from outside, and there’s even evidence that he’s getting better at making them. Back in July he was filmed knocking one down in a high school gym during a pick-up game, which is not the most impressive setting, but still! And Tuesday night, Simmons flushed a confident-looking three-pointer from above the break, on an NBA floor, while wearing an NBA uniform! Yes, it was a preseason game, and yes, the opponent was the Guangzhou Loong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. Still!
Simmons is not suddenly going to become a player who drains four three-pointers a game, but if he’s ever going to become a player who opponents respect around the perimeter, this is a reasonably encouraging start. Unless you’re this guy, in which case you’re probably sobbing into your pillow over the destruction of a transgressive legend: