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Should Ben Simmons Take More Jump Shots?

Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot jumpers is far from a novel discovery.

Every person who has watched more than a few minutes of a Sixers game in the last 14 months could probably tell you the Sixers would be a better team if Simmons took and made more jumpers.

Let's look beyond that self-evident fact and actually talk about Simmons' jumper - why he doesn't take more, whether he should be, and whether he truly needs a jumper.

Why doesn't he take more jumpers?

The No. 1 reason Simmons doesn't take more jumpers is he doesn't make a very high percentage. He's 8 for 36 from 10 feet and out this season. His 22-footer with the shot clock expiring Tuesday in Boston was the longest made shot of his NBA career, and the only shot from over 16 feet he's made this season.

To put it in polite terms, mid-range jumpers are not an efficient play type for Simmons.

And, while he has yet to attempt a three-point shot this season, there's little reason to believe he'd currently be an effective shooter from long distance, even if he has occasionally demonstrated the ability to make three-pointers in practice.

Should he take more?

Even if he's not going to immediately be an effective mid-range or long-range shooter, there are two reasonable arguments for why Simmons should be taking more jumpers.

Argument 1: Simmons' development hinges on his jumper, and in-game practice will aid his improvement. 

While it's impossible to support this claim with any data, it makes intuitive sense. You'd assume more in-game reps would give Simmons more comfort with his shot, and help him grow familiar with the right spots to take it. 

There's a strong counter-argument, however, to the notion that Simmons should be shooting more in games for the sake of his development: For the time being, there's no reason to believe he'd make very many jumpers. The Sixers would likely be a worse team in a hypothetical world in which Simmons shoots 1 for 5 or 2 for 7 on jumpers every game.

It's also worth mentioning that you'd expect Simmons' jumper would develop most in the offseason, when he has the most time to dedicate to it, not during games. The offseason between Year 1 and Year 2, though, doesn't appear to have yielded much progress - not in games, anyway.

Argument 2: Even if Simmons isn't making jumpers, shooting two or three more each game would benefit the Sixers' offense. 

Without a jump shot, much of Simmons' half-court offense comes from the restricted area, which limits Joel Embiid's space in the paint.

Also, Simmons and T.J. McConnell usually station themselves in the short corner off the ball, and handling double-teams is a more difficult job for Embiid as a result (see film review).

Would defenses really play Simmons tighter if he attempted a few more jumpers per game, or would he need to prove himself capable of making outside shots before getting that respect? If opponents did guard Simmons closer, exactly how much space would that open up for Embiid and the rest of the offense?

The middle ground between taking just one shot from 10 feet and out per game and jacking up a bunch of 20-footers each night is vast. For the time being, the potential short- and long-term benefits of Simmons attempting a few more mid-range shots per game outweigh the minimal harm of him likely not shooting a great percentage on those attempts.

Does he need a reliable shot? 

Simmons doesn't need a dependable jumper to be an excellent player - without one, he's already won Rookie of the Year, posted 16 triple-doubles and averaged 15.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.1 assists in 115 regular-season games.

He does need a jumper to become a perennial All-Star. Maybe not a "reliable" jumper, but something better than he has now. Something that could prevent defenses from sagging off him and daring him to shoot. Something besides his elite athleticism and passing ability to use against the best teams in the NBA, against whom those skills often won't be enough.

If you believe the Sixers have the ability to win a championship this season, you might not want Simmons to take and miss a bunch of jumpers and potentially hurt the team's chances in the postseason. And if you think the Sixers have little realistic chance of a title this year, you very well might want to see Simmons firing away and trying to develop the shot he'll need at some stage to be consistently effective against elite teams who can mitigate his athletic advantages. 

Either way, everyone who watches the Sixers will keep talking about Simmons' jumper for the foreseeable future.

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