Ben Simmons will need to play at an elite level to help the Philadelphia 76ers (+3000) win the NBA Finals, but it’s unclear what kind of shape he’ll be in when the season resumes in late July. The point forward hasn’t played since February because of a back injury he suffered and is expected to create a ton of chances for his teammates as a facilitator while also being a versatile defender. Is he up for the task? Let’s go over what he’s been up to for the last three months.
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported that Simmons was ready to play in April, so he should be available to close out the regular season. He’s hasn’t just been working on getting back to where he was before the injury. He’s focused on improving.
Simmons has been using his extra time to build up strength, but has also decided to address his reluctance to shoot the long ball — which has earned him his fair share of criticism from teammates, coaches, and fans throughout his professional career. Some believe that raising his confidence level as a shooter could help him ascend to a superstar level, and coach Brett Brown has been adamant about pressuring the 23-year old.
“I told Ben, ‘If you aren’t willing to shoot, then do I just bench you? Because I can do that,’” Brown told MacMullan. “We could have gone that route or continue to coach him as it relates to spacing. We worked on the ability to use it as a choice to shoot the 3, catch and go, get in the paint, or find someone else.”
While Brown didn’t bench Simmons before his injury, Simmons has hinted at a potential increase in volume ahead of the playoffs.
“It could be during the playoffs. I’ve prepped so much for it, when I do it, it will work,” Simmons said.
Although the 76ers are ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference, perimeter shooting from Simmons could increase floor spacing and unlock a world of potential for him alongside Joel Embiid — one of the game’s most dominant post presences. History shows that we can’t believe what Simmons says until he actually takes action, but if he puts his money where his mouth is I think Philadelphia’s odds to win the Eastern Conference (+900) are enticing enough to consider. Whether Simmons will play shouldn’t be a question, but how he will look to evolve his game and elevate his team’s ceiling remains to be seen.
“I know it’s going to come,” Simmons said. “It’s a matter of me being comfortable doing it. Some of that is getting the reps in. I can take a hook shot from the elbow, because I’ve done it so many times, I’m confident it will go in. It’s second nature.”