At Line Lately, Simmons Reaping the Rewards of Hard Work

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

The sample size is small, but the progress is wholly encouraging.

Since the calendar flipped from February to March, Ben Simmons has converted all but seven of his 32 free throw attempts.

Put another way, he’s been shooting at a 78.1 percent clip.

Not only is that figure 17th-best among all players with at least 30 foul shots over their past six games, it’s better than what fellow All-Star Weekend luminaries Donovan Mitchell (75.0), Giannis Antetokounmpo (74.6), Russell Westbrook (60.0), and LeBron James (59.2) have been doing from the line during the same period of time.

In helping the Sixers top the Cleveland Cavaliers, 106-99, Tuesday at The Center, Simmons again proved dependable, nailing 6 of his 8 freebies, all in the second half. It marked only the fifth time he’s shot 75.0 percent or higher in a game in which he’s also attempted at least eight tries at the stripe.

Brett Brown attributes Simmons’ headway to one simple factor: the payoff of hard work.

“He’s put in time,” Brown said Tuesday.

Even if we were to use a slightly longer lense than Simmons’ past six games, you’d find positive signs. He’s shot 70.6 percent on free throws since returning from the All-Star Game break, having seemingly turned a corner his second game back, when he went 7 for 8 from the stripe versus the Miami Heat.

Prior to the break, Simmons had been shooting 58.6 percent on foul shots. While that represented a modest step forward compared to the 56.0 percent the Australian shot during his Rookie of the Year campaign, Brown sensed there was disappointment.

“You could almost see there was an anger that he deserved to shoot better,” said Brown. ”It wasn’t anything that beat him down. In fact, it inspired him, I saw. That’s just my observation.”

It goes without saying that given how Simmons plays on offense and his preferred means of scoring, he figures to become that much more dangerous the more efficient he is at the line.

Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring in the paint (13.4 ppg), and is deployed regularly in post-ups off the ball. With his size and savvy, getting inside and generating contact aren’t problems.

The next step, according to Brown, is for the 22-year old to translate his recent overall success at the stripe to pressure-packed, end-of-game scenarios.

“He’s not hiding to get to the line,” Brown said. “I give him credit for his determination.”

In a change from last season, Simmons has enlisted one of his brothers, Liam Tribe Simmons, to help him fine-tune his shot. Simmons says working on his free throws is an everyday task.

“Come in before practice and get shots up,” said Simmons of his activities with Liam. “On the road, he flies out. It’s whenever we get the chance to be in the gym, either before the game, after the game.”

That the fruits of Simmons’ labor are manifesting themselves within games, however, is what ultimately matters the most, and right now, he’s trending in an auspicious direction.

 

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