Sixers superstar Ben Simmons is forever knocked for his inability to shoot jumpers from anywhere on the floor that’s not directly at the time. However, a new stat more than infers that this is no longer a problem.
Fans of the Philadelphia 76ers likely remember where they were when they watched it happen, whether it was at the Wells Fargo Center or in front of their TVs at home.
It happened during a November game against the New York Knicks, which the Sixers won, 109-104. But the game itself wasn’t the story that made headlines. It was just one particular basket made by Sixers All Star Ben Simmons. Because for the first time in his NBA career, Simmons made a three-pointer.
1 year ago today, Ben Simmons made his first NBA three-pointer!!! pic.twitter.com/v8wqbysJzo
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 20, 2020
The fans and the Sixers’ broadcast team reacted like he just hit a game-winner, while his teammates reacted as if he had just broken a defender’s ankles or put someone on a poster. But as one of the few players in the NBA that was averse to shooting, it was indeed a rare sight to see the 24-year old shoot and make a shot from beyond the arc.
The shot didn’t open the floodgates for the Simmons, as he still has just three made triples on 30 attempts in his four seasons. But he has found a way to make an impact for the Sixers despite being a non-shooter in a league where shooting almost seems like a requirement. The arrival of head coach Doc Rivers and general manager Daryl Morey also didn’t see an uptick in Simmons’ attempts from downtown, but he does so many other things for Philadelphia that goes beyond the box score.
Ben Simmons is one of the biggest reasons for the Sixers’ strong start this season, as they find themselves on top of the Eastern Conference with a 17-7 record. The team is 0-3 in games without him, which emphasizes his importance, even if he is averaging career-low numbers in scoring. The first overall pick of the 2016 Draft is averaging just 13.8 points per game on 54.5% shooting, while adding 8.3 rebounds, eight assists, and 1.8 steals.
Despite the lack of shooting, Ben Simmons has an incredible impact on the Sixers success 🔥 pic.twitter.com/RnzRqpoBDk
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 9, 2021
While these numbers are similar to his production in past seasons, the LSU product also makes an impact on defense and in the Sixers’ outside shooting. In games without Simmons, the Sixers have shot just 29% from beyond the arc, which would be the worst mark in the league. However, when he is on the floor, his team shoot 40.7% from downtown, ranking second in the NBA in that department.
And it’s not as if Ben Simmons is suddenly letting it fly from beyond the arc. It’s just that his mere presence improves the Sixers’ spacing, as his drives to the basket draw a lot of attention from opponents, allowing his teammates to be open. This is also where his passing comes in, as the 6-foot-11 point guard is able to find the Sixers’ shooters to knock down their open shots.
In Philly’s 124-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, five of Simmons’ eight assists were for three-pointers, once more proving his ability to create shots from downtown for his teammates. After the game, Rivers praised his ability to space the floor and find the open man.
“We’re doing a great job spacing the floor, which allows Ben to get into the paint in transition, suck someone in, and then find them,” Rivers told Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s been very good for us all year.”
Aside from excelling on defense a year after being named as a member of the All-Defensive First Team, Simmons’ ability to create shots for his teammates and find them has been invaluable for the Sixers even as his fellow All Star Joel Embiid receives more the credit for their success.
The dip in his offensive numbers could hurt his chances of being named an All Star for the third straight season. Nonetheless, his coaches and teammates understand his importance not only in the team’s scoring and defense, but in Ben Simmons creating space for his teammates and helping their outside shooting despite being a non-shooter.