July 12, 2017
On social media Tuesday night, Sixers “second-year rookie” Ben Simmons sent out a video of himself working out in an empty Las Vegas gym, draining threes. Like, nine of them in a row. From the video, it appears that Simmons’ shot is clearly fixed:
OK, not really. Once I received the opportunity to cover basketball on a full-time basis, it was shocking to me how well NBA players can shoot in an empty gym. This includes the bad shooters: I will always remember watching DeAndre Jordan go close to 90 percent from the line during a lengthy warmup session and then proceed to shoot his usual 40 percent during the game.
It’s hard to see where exactly his elbow is from the side, but Simmons’ form looks pretty good in the video. He appears to be practicing with shooting coach John Townsend, who the Sixers brought in largely to work with the 2016 top-overall pick.
“We did the same thing with Tony Parker, we gave him $65 million and he really couldn’t shoot,” Brown told reporters during the season, looking back on his days in San Antonio. “And so we thought, ‘Well maybe a side investment should be getting a shooting coach.’ And so we did.”
That coach turned out to be Chip Engelland, who became known as the league’s premier “shot doctor” due to his work with not only Parker but also current Spurs star swingman Kawhi Leonard.
Simmons, of course, had his 2016-17 season end before it even started after suffering a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in training camp. The good news is that there are legitimate ways to tighten up a player’s shooting form when they can’t play 5-on-5 basketball, whether that comes from shooting in a chair or right under the basket.
“The whole time I was out, I was working [on my shooting],” Simmons said after the season. “Me and J.T., every day we’re coming here and working.”
Much of the recent focus on Simmons is what a combination of himself and Markelle Fultz will look like out on the court. Both players were lead initiators in college, and now they’ll need to figure out the NBA game while playing together.
But for Simmons, who some observers still believe shoots jumpers with the wrong hand (a ton of his shots around the rim and in the paint in college were taken right-handed), his shot is still the area to focus on. He went only 14 of 45 on jumpers at LSU, per Draft Express.
If Townsend can help Simmons’ jumper come along, the partnership with Fultz will be a piece of cake. Behind Joel Embiid’s health, it is the second-most important Sixers variable.
“When you cut to the chase, you got to put the ball in the hole in our sport,” Brown said.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann
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