Skip to main content

When Ben Simmons joined the Philadelphia 76ers as the franchise’s first top pick in the NBA Draft since they snagged Allen Iverson in the 90s, the former LSU star had a question mark surrounding his shooting.

It was clear Simmons would be a point guard in the NBA after serving as a power forward at LSU. But the fact that Simmons rarely attempted three-pointers in college left many questioning whether Simmons could last as a point guard in the NBA or not.

Without a three-point shot, Simmons held value on the offensive end as he averaged 15 points and eight assists in his debut season with the Sixers. Over the next two years, Simmons put up 16 points per game and dished out 7.8 assists per game.

Amid the 2019-2020 NBA season, Simmons was challenged by former Sixers head coach Brett Brown to begin shooting three-pointers more consistently. Publicly, Brown urged Simmons to take at least one three-point shot every game.

Simmons never followed up that year. During the 2019-2020 run, Simmons attempted just seven threes. Many believed that Brown’s replacement Doc Rivers would finally get to the three-time All-Star and have Simmons consistently launch his deep shot. 

However, Rivers claimed countless times that Simmons’ three-point shot is the last of his worries. When the 2020-2021 season concluded, Simmons attempted just ten threes in 58 games. The Sixers hoped that Simmons would help with their spacing concerns in the half-court by showing a willingness to take those deep shots — but the star guard remained gun-shy.

The Trend Continues in Brooklyn

Many believed that a fresh start with the Brooklyn Nets could help Simmons unlock his shooting from all over the court without the criticism that rained on him at times when he was in Philadelphia.

Encouragement from a head coach could be a difference-maker in whether Simmons confidently expands his range or not, but it seems Nets head coach Steve Nash is going to take a similar approach to Rivers instead.

“[He’s] very unique,” said Nash regarding Simmons, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “That’s what makes Ben great. That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot. He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special, and that’s not what we need.”

Unlike the Sixers, the Nets aren’t desperate for Simmons to launch shots from all over the court as they employ two elite scorers in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. In addition, the Nets have high-volume three-point scorers such as Seth Curry and Joe Harris at their disposal.

While Nash is right in the sense that Brooklyn needs Simmons’ “unique” skillset rather than a transformed version of him, the head coach’s lack of encouragement for Simmons to shoot won’t do much for the development of the young All-Star. 

The former Sixers draft pick should thrive as a playmaker in Brooklyn, but Simmons could have another season where he fails to reach his ceiling as a scorer. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.