Ben Simmons won Rookie of the Year because he can drive the lane with the best of them — he averaged 12.7 points per game scored in the paint last season (fourth best in the league), with 46 percent of his shots being taken in the restricted area and 93 percent of his shots came within 14 feet of the rim. He finished well when he got to the rim (74 percent) but from four feet out to the free throw line he shot just 37 percent and it gets worse with the handful of shots he took beyond that (stat via Cleaning The Glass). Simmons shot 56 percent from the free throw line.
The next step in evolving his game was clear — and he knew it. Simmons spent the summer working on it, he told Brian Seltzer of the Sixers’ official website.
“For me last season, I was trying to do what I was really good at – facilitating, getting guys involved, getting to the rim, and obviously making plays,” said Simmons….
“You’ve got to start slowly,” said Simmons… “If it’s adding a free throw that gets up to 80.0 percent, that’s about five more points right there. If you add little things and keep adding over time, that’s how you become great.”
“If you take [jump shots], [teams] give you a little bit more respect, and you’re able to make more moves and dissect the defense,” Simmons said. “This summer, I’ve been working a lot on certain things that I’ll definitely use.”
Simmons is right about just taking jumpers (it’s the point coaches have tried to make to Ricky Rubio for years). Make them and things really open up, but even a willingness to take them will make the defense adjust a little.
Simmons is just 22 and his shot’s not broken. If he puts in the work, it should get better.
That’s the kind of improvement the Sixers are banking on. After striking out going star hunting this off-season, Philadelphia will need steps forward from Simmons and Joel Embiid, and a big sophomore season from Markelle Fultz, to take a step forward and compete with Boston and Toronto. This is a good team, no question, but how good will come down to how much work those three did this off-season.