Before the NBA season began, Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons said he wanted to grow as a scorer. He also cited a push for improved shooting from the free throw line and finishing at the rim.
With the Sixers now 22 games into the regular season, Simmons hasn’t made a significant stride in his development as a scorer. The reigning Rookie of the Year is averaging 15.5 points per game on 54.4 percent shooting from the field this season. He’s also shooting 60.6 percent from the free throw line, which is better than the 55.9 percent he shot from the line through 22 games last season, but still far less than ideal.
Simmons’ numbers are solid, but he has the potential for improvement far beyond this, particularly when it comes to scoring.
For Simmons, showing his potential as a scorer should start with a more aggressive approach on the offensive end. Simmons is primarily a facilitator, but when he looks to score, the Sixers have another layer to their offense.
When Simmons has scored at least 20 points this season, the Sixers hold a 4-2 record. One of those losses came on the road in a November 4 game against the Brooklyn Nets. Simmons led the Sixers in scoring with 20 points, and the performance was one of two times he’s accomplished that feat this season. Still, the Sixers lost 122-97, which ranks as easily one of their worst this year.
The other loss came at home Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers when the team’s 10-game home winning streak was snapped. Simmons scored 22 points during the game, but he also wasn’t aggressive until the last few minutes of the fourth, when it was perhaps too late.
The Sixers were down 112-97 with just under three minutes left in the game and Simmons had scored 12 points through the first three quarters. He played the bulk of the fourth quarter, as he subbed in roughly around the 9:30 mark, but was unable to get much going in the final frame.
Simmons didn’t score his first point in the fourth quarter until the 2:13 mark, totaling 10 of his 22 points down the final stretch as Philly made a last-ditch effort to get back in the game. The closest the Sixers came in the last minute was seven points, and the Cavs had the game sealed.
Though Simmons isn’t a good shooter, his ability to score inside puts pressure on opposing defenses. When he drives to the basket it forces opponents to give him additional attention. The key issue, though, is that Simmons needs to look to score when he’s given space.
It’s not a drastic issue yet that Simmons can’t shoot well – he’ll grow in that area with time. What is an issue, however, is that the young guard hasn’t taken a step forward in terms of being a more consistent, aggressive scorer.
Coach Brett Brown said earlier this month that he wished Simmons would take more jump shots, per Jon Johnson of 94WIP in Philadelphia. But Brown also acknowledged Simmons taking jump shots would come with time. On the season, he’s shot 59.4 percent of his field goal attempts within 0-3 feet of the basket.
Simmons has the tools to be a player who can average about 20 points per game, along with about 7-9 assists. His ability to get to the hoop should be enough for him as things currently stand, though.
With the recent addition of Jimmy Butler, it leaves more room for the exceptional passer to facilitate. Simmons can play his primary role to its fullest extent and not have to be the second scoring option behind Joel Embiid.
But even with Embiid and Butler being the No. 1 and 2 options, respectively, Simmons needs to be a scoring threat on offense. If he’s able to show the ability to consistently be aggressive, then he’ll be well on his way to maximizing his potential as a scorer.
And if that happens, the Sixers should have no problem being one of the top teams in the East.