Nobody Really Thinks Ben Simmons Doesn't Need To Shoot

Spike Eskin
October 09, 2019 - 9:05 am

I got a good dose of reality last night, just seconds before the end of the first half of the Sixers first preseason game; there is no one who actually believes it’s not important for the point guard of an NBA team in 2019 to be able to effectively shoot the basketball.

You could tell from the reaction of his teammates, who cheered and celebrated like they had won Game 7 of the NBA finals, to the fans in the arena who had been yelling “SHOOT” every time he touched the ball, who all reacted the same way, to social media, where Ben Simmons was the #1 trending topic on Twitter for hitting his first three point shot in an (sort of in this case) NBA game. It was a celebration tinged with a healthy dose of relief. 

The only two people who managed to put a “not such a big deal” face on it were Simmons himself, and head coach Brett Brown, who deserves an Academy Award for the job he did acting like there wasn’t much to discuss. 

Social media, Twitter in this specific case, can give you a distorted view of what the world is like. There is a vocal subset of Sixers fans (trust me, I know this topic well), who had convinced themselves, either in an effort of mental self-preservation (like they did with Markelle Fultz), or through general boredom, who have spent the last year or so telling anyone who would listen that the primary ball handler of an NBA team in 2019, whose best player is their 7’1” center, doesn’t really need to shoot for the team to be successful. This after seeing Simmons basically disappear offensively in the halfcourt in two straight postseasons against Boston and Toronto specifically because of his inability or unwillingness to shoot. From their reaction to last night’s shot, you could see that deep down, they know it too. 

You can certainly make the argument that Simmons should not be a point guard, and I do not disagree, but it’s an entirely different discussion than the one we’re having. As long as Simmons believes he’s one, and the Sixers organization follows his lead, the shooting conversation is valid. 

The person who has disingenuously led this online effort of misinformation, a New Yorker who writes for a sports and culture website whose two biggest claims to fame are being banned from the comment section of Liberty Ballers and blindly being handed one of the most interesting and absurd sports stories in history, was noticeably silent after the made shot. As a neutral observer I enjoy the bit, truly. But I’m not a neutral observer, and I’ve spent far too much time and energy on this team over the last decade to just laugh it off. Maybe that’s a me problem. 

The fact is, Simmons hitting the shot is a big deal. It’s an especially big deal if it is a sign of things to come, as his ability to at least hit open shots from the outside will provide more space for the team’s best player, and everyone else on the Sixers, to operate. Joel Embiid very clearly said as much earlier this week. One would hope that it was more of a mental block that Simmons had over taking shots like that, and his ability to make them is less of an issue. 

The Sixers could likely get through the regular season without Simmons being much of a threat, and even wind up with the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But in the playoffs, when the game slows down and no one is taking any plays off, his defender needing to guard him, at least think about guarding him, 22 feet away from the basket, will change things for the better both when the ball is in his hands and when it isn’t. 

Sure, it was just a three point shot in a preseason game against a Chinese Basketball League team at the end of a half, that 20,000 people, including his teammates, were begging him to take.

But it might just be the shot that changes everything.