Originally posted on www.crossingbroad.com
Question: Does Ben Simmons need a jump shot to become an NBA All-Star?
Nope. He proved that last year. He’s already a borderline elite player because of his passing, vision, defense, and athleticism.
Follow-up question: Does Ben Simmons need a jump shot to take his game to the next level?
Yes, absolutely, and everybody would agree with that Captain Obvious statement, but when the jump shot question comes up via media scrum or internet argument, those traits I mentioned above sort of sit by the wayside. They don’t enter the discussion until a little bit later, when someone reminds the other person of what Ben already does well.
Typically you hear rudimentary things like this:
“Ben won’t shoot!”
“He doesn’t have the confidence!”
“He’s not interested in getting better!”
I think that’s why he gets annoyed with the questions we ask, because oftentimes they’re presented tersely and in a negative light. We constantly talk about the one thing he doesn’t do instead of mentioning the four things he already does well, which skews the narrative even though his existing skill set warrants a glass half full approach.
So we need to-frame this. We need to advance the story, because it feels like the topic is always broached from a pessimistic angle. Somebody in Ben’s camp or on the Sixers’ PR staff needs to get with him and turn the narrative into something like this:
“Ben, imagine what kind of player you’ll be WITH a jump shot. Imagine how you’ll help the team and help yourself reach the next level. Talk about that when reporters ask the question.”
Isn’t it just a phrasing thing? Present the positive side instead of the negative side. Focus on the former instead of the latter. Everybody needs to see the jump shot as the only thing missing from an already fantastic all-around game, instead of this glaring weakness that might cripple the Sixers in the players (regardless of whether it’s true or not).
As you know, the problem with Ben’s lack of shooting is that it results in spacing issues on the court. When defenders don’t respect his ability to chuck, he doesn’t warrant attention, which leads to paint clogging, sags, digs, and double-teams that affect Joel Embiid and others. Brett Brown has pointed this out before, and mentioned at his media luncheon that Ben has the ability to be a high level close-out attacker if he can command enough attention on the perimeter.
“Once somebody has to be guarded, the rules change. The holy grail in our sport is to avoid rotations. It’s where the 2v2 and pick and roll was born and it’s gone on for a decade. If Ben Simmons is coming off a pick-and-roll and he actually needs to be hedged out on and rollers can get behind, or they’re not back just showing a crowd (of defenders) all the time on Joel in an off-ball thing, it’s not Ben in live ball – all the stuff you know I would say. What I think doesn’t get talked about enough, and I think should, is he has the ability to chew up space both on and off the ball in a way that could be harmful (to opposing teams). He’s coming out of a cannon.
Say I’m Josh (Richardson) at the top of the key. There’s the basket. Ben’s over at what I call the down wing and his man is just sitting in the paint showing a crowd on Josh. You make him bite a little bit and throw it, and he’s just going straight downhill. That in itself is hard to guard. Whether he just catches and rises up, maybe (that’s effective), but the space he has been used to, we can help him manipulate and exploit better than we have.”
That’s really what it’s all about. It’s about commanding attention on the perimeter, which opens the floor for the other people and then perhaps allows Ben himself to come out of “a cannon” and get to the rim.
You’re talking about a defender who can just sort of sit in the slot there and leave Ben open because he’s not a shooting threat. Josh Richardson can’t drive that area if a guy is already sitting there.
Here’s another example in video form, with the Warriors conceding the open three and doubling Joel Embiid instead:
If Ben’s not a threat to shoot, then he doesn’t warrant defending. That affects his teammates, especially in the more meticulous half-court possessions that comprise the 4th quarter of high stakes playoff games. He’s not bombing up and down the floor for easy buckets in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
I think we all know what the issue is, and when we write about Simmons, it’s worth reiterating that problem every single time so people are constantly reminded of the bigger picture issue. Then it becomes a presentation thing on our part, i.e., how can we the media get Ben to talk specifically about these issues instead of asking generic and “dumb” jump shot questions?
So it’s on us to try to approach these queries in a better way, but it’s also on Ben’s people and Ben himself to flip the narrative and label the jump shot as the “final piece” or the “missing piece” of an already elite skill set. If we can get there, to the point where we’re framing this positively instead of negatively, then the topic becomes less contentious and maybe Ben even develops the confidence to actually start firing away in a game.
Maybe he’ll do it tonight against the Guangzhou Loong Lions.
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