The play itself was fairly standard, one that you see virtually every day in the NBA; a shooting guard passing to an open point guard in the corner who drains a three-pointer. But when you are watching a Philadelphia 76ers game, and that point guard’s name is Ben Simmons, this play is anything but standard. In Philadelphia, it was cause for a celebration.
Ben Simmons’ flaws as a shooter are well-documented. While he has plenty of productive elements to his game, jump shooting is not one of them. But on November 20, 2019, Simmons gave the home crowd something to cheer about when he hit the first three-pointer of his career against the New York Knicks.
Simmons had missed on his previous 17 attempts
Ben Simmons enjoyed a productive rookie season in which he played in 81 games and averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game. He took only 11 attempts from three-point range that season and missed on all 11 of them.
Last season, Simmons played in 79 games, improving on his rookie totals in points with 16.9 per game and in rebounds with 8.8 per game. He attempted only six three-point shots in 2018-19 and missed both of them, falling to 0-for-17 on his career.
Through the first 11 games of the 2019-20 season, Ben Simmons’ numbers are down a bit as he is averaging 13.7 points, 7.1 assists, and six rebounds. This is in part due to a new-look 76ers roster that includes Al Horford and Josh Richardson; the ball is getting spread around differently in the early stages of the season.
Ben Simmons breaks his long slump
And on Wednesday night, the ball found its way into Ben Simmons’ hands behind the arc. Usually, Simmons will look to pass or to drive to the basket instead of taking a jump shot. But with no open lane to the hoop and only eight seconds left on the shot clock, the 23-year-old launched up a shot; and hit nothing but net.
Ben Simmons hadn’t attempted a single three-pointer this season before that one. It took Simmons 18 three-point attempts and 172 regular-season NBA games, but he finally hit one.
The last time the point guard had hit a three-pointer in a competitive game at any level was when he did so against the Charleston Cougars when he was playing at LSU in college. That game happened on November 30, 2015, which was 1,451 days ago.
Can the 76ers build on this?
Simmons is never going to be a sharp-shooter, but he’s reportedly been working on his shooting game. And there was an interesting takeaway from this made three-pointer.
According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, this was the first time in Ben Simmons’ career that he had ever attempted a corner three-pointer. It was also the first time in his career that he had attempted a catch-and-shoot three-pointer.
Perhaps part of the issue in Ben Simmons’ shooting game is mental, and that overthinking his jump shot and its form is a part of the problem. It’s likely not a coincidence that his first three-pointer in nearly four years was on a ball that he just caught and threw without over-analyzing.
If the Philadelphia 76ers can help Simmons to feel more comfortable just firing away, maybe some improvement in his shooting game would follow. But even if this was just a one-off, it had to feel great for Simmons, his teammates, and his fans to finally see one fall.