You knew it was only a matter of time. When Ben Simmons withdrew from participation in this year’s FIBA World Cup to prepare for the upcoming NBA season, many people speculated it was to work on the much-scrutinized and often-absent jump shot. It’s no secret that the 2019-20 campaign will be a huge one for Simmons from both a team and personal perspective. The Sixers are all-in for a title push and co-favorites in the Eastern Conference, while the All-NBA clauses in Simmons’ recently signed contract extension mean millions of dollars are riding on his performance next season. Any semblance of a usable jumper would go a long way toward both individual and team success.
So when skills development trainer Chris Johnson posted this video to social media last night, you knew the eyeball emojis would be out in full force:
We see Simmons pull up from 3 in transition from the right wing (I’ll have to check if that violates Jimmy Butler’s patent), shoot a turnaround jumper along the baseline, and pull up for a mid-range jump shot off the dribble. They’re the type of shots that will be available to Ben whenever he wants, given both his height and NBA defenses’ current strategy of staying off him along the perimeter.
But it’s not like we haven’t seen him shoot jumpers before. Simmons takes them in warm-ups before games. The Sixers maintain he fires them up in practice. Is there anything here new or newsworthy?
You can make the case that this video is actually a bad sign. We know from the crucible that was the Markelle Fultz-Drew Hanlen era that if a player is going to completely rework his shot, he should not be participating in any 5-on-5 action during that process. So Ben is clearly not overhauling anything. His left hand is still splayed out at an awkward angle from the ball. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor can continue to make a cottage industry out of claiming Simmons needs to switch to shooting with the right hand.
Then again, maybe a willingness to take the shots is enough. As we saw with Giannis Antetokounmpo last season (25.6 percent from 3), even having a poor jump shot in your game can help immensely when the alternative is offering negative floor spacing. Is the fact that Simmons gave the go-ahead on releasing the video a sign that he will be comfortable taking those shots next season? Or will he shut down the experiment in the face of adversity? He could have gone 3-for-15 on jumpers in that scrimmage for all we know, and he might feel differently about hoisting them up after going 0-for-6 on wide-open 3s in a game.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next season with Ben Simmons and his jumper, but I know one thing for sure: more grainy videos will follow this summer.