Seltzer's Notebook | Growing Simmons' Jumper; Brown Serves as Resource for Peers

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Simmons' Jumper on Brown's Mind

When it comes to scoring, Ben Simmons’ preference, no doubt, is to drive to the basket, and get in the paint. Given his track record in this area, can you blame him?

As of Wednesday morning, the dynamic point man had made more total drives to the hoop (545) and averaged more drives per game (18.8) than any other player in the NBA. His 13.6 points in the paint per contest ranked fourth-best in the league, behind the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, three All-Stars.

Another telling number is that Simmons has generated 78.8 percent of his points in the paint, another statistic that’s fourth-highest in the league. He’s the only non-center among the top 5.

But while recently considering Simmons’ developmental path, Brett Brown has deemed the timing is right to invest renewed focus on the gradual growth of the rookie’s pull-up jump shot.

Prior to Monday’s stop in Chicago, Brown indicated that starting that night, Simmons would begin to receive greater in-game encouragement to sprinkle jumpers into his repertoire.

“We have to start that more than we’ve seen it,” Brown said. “We have to do it.”

Why the increased sense of urgency?

Lately, in half court sets, with driving lanes less open, and the key more densely packed, Brown has noticed the Sixers battle through stretches of static offense. Maybe an occasional jump shot from Simmons could help keep defenses honest.

Monday against the Bulls, Simmons wound up taking two jumpers. The first one came on a turnaround try just below the free throw line, as the horn was sounding to end the opening half. His second jump shot - a stepback at the foul line - surfaced two minutes into the third quarter. Both attempts were misses.

The next evening, however, in the Sixers’ pairing with the Sacramento Kings, Simmons turned to his mid-range game early, assertively, and successfully. Here, on his first jump shot of the game, he dribbles to the foul line, side steps slightly to the left elbow, and nails a 14-footer in a single, smooth sequence.

About a minute later, Simmons used a pass and subsequent screen in the mid post from Amir Johnson to get himself open at the left elbow, and rise up to fluidly flick in a 15-footer.

By relying primarily this season on the powerful, downhill, rim-attacking scoring mindset that’s made him the cream of his class at every level of basketball he’s played, Simmons is already, impressively, performing like an All-Star. Brown believes even bigger things could be in store, especially with another weapon added to the 21-year old’s arsenal.

“He’s been able to impact a game the way that we’ve seen his whole life, at LSU, high school, his first 30 games in the NBA,” said Brown. “His evolution is he has to grow that.”

So, the Sixers are comfortable giving Simmons a modest green light to try his hand at jumpers in the natural flow of games. Proper balance in shot selection, though, is important. Simmons, for his own part, is on board with Brown’s vision.

“To get to that next level, I need to start doing that,” said Simmons, referring to shooting jump shots. “I think that’s the next step in being an elite player.

“I’m excited,” Brown said. “That’s just part of all of our growth as a team, and certainly him as an individual.”

For the season, Simmons has converted 30.5 percent (29 for 95) of his field goal attempts released between 10 and 19 feet, according to stats.nba.com. His 10 3-point heaves have been just that, a collection of last-ditch desperation shots in various at-the-buzzer scenarios. 

Brown Consulted by Counterparts

Each of the last two times the Sixers have played, Monday at Chicago, and Tuesday at home versus Sacramento, the pre-game media availabilities of the opposing head coaches have contained an overlapping theme - stories of Brett Brown serving as a resource for several of his counterparts who, like Brown in previous years, are now tasked with the challenge of molding young, re-tooling clubs.

This past off-season, after summer league, Brown had a long, candid chat with the Bulls’ Fred Hoiberg. The Kings’ Dave Joerger has also reached out to Brown in the past for tips.

Tuesday at The Center, Joerger expressed his fondness for Brown. These were his remarks:

“I don’t like him...I love him. He’s a good dude. He’s a straight shooter. I had the chance, when I was in the [NBA G League] to go with the Spurs summer league team, and he was the head coach. I got to know him, and Monty Williams was on that staff at the time. To get to know those guys, and what you think, what you see, then what you get to hear from them in person, and what you can learn. International experience, and the way he looks at [things]. I remember just sitting around in one of the first coaches meetings with San Antonio, and we’re talking about what should be run, and I was just sitting there, and then [Brown said], ‘Hey, you. Go up and draw your favorite baseline out-of-bounds play.’ It turned into picking each other’s brains. For me, I just love that stuff. I’m a big fan of his.”