Philadelphia 76ers: 3 ways Ben Simmons can improve next year (that aren’t shooting)

Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers’ star point guard can improve his game without a knockdown jumper.

There’s a common misconception out there that Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons did not get better offensively from his rookie year to his sophomore year. That’s simply not true. He got to the foul line more and shot a better percentage when he got there. He increased his true shooting percentage from 55.7 percent to 58.2 percent. He became more efficient.

However, the 23-year-old All-Star can get even better this season. And yes, an obvious category is being ignored here. It is well documented that he can improve his shooting. He can begin attempting threes and mid-range shots, and that will open up the floor for the rest of his game. That aspect is so well documented that it should be ignored here. Exclusively focusing on Simmons’ shooting is lazy.

Here are three ways in which Ben Simmons can significantly improve next season, that aren’t shooting:

1. Finishing at the rim

Ben Simmons is a good finisher around the rim already, shooting 65 percent on shots from less than five feet away last season. However, his physical gifts and manner in which he goes about shooting those shots suggests there’s some room for improvement. First, he’s 6-foot-10 and incredibly athletic. He’s below guys like Bradley Beal and Eric Bledsoe. People with his body type and handle (read: LeBron James, Pascal Siakam, Giannis Antetokounmpo) all shot better than Simmons. 

Simmons has a tendency to make close shots a little harder than they need to be. He doesn’t always get as close to the rim as he could, and he often uses his right hand when it makes more sense to use his left. Becoming more ambidextrous and developing his touch can improve his percentages down there.

2. Getting to the line more (and converting his attempts)

From year one to year two, Simmons his free throw rate from from 0.343 to 0.446. He also converted more of his attempts, from 56 percent to 60 percent. Here are Giannis’ stats from 2015-16 compared with Ben Simmons’ last year:

Giannis: 16.9 PTS, 7.7 REB, 4.3 AST, 5.1 FTA

Simmons: 16.9 PTS, 8.8 REB, 7.7 AST, 5.4 FTA

Pretty similar, right?

This past year, Giannis attempted almost 10 free throws per game, and his scoring average increased to 27.7. Elite players get to the free throw line more and convert their attempts. If Simmons is able to use his body better to get calls, he could be in line for a scoring boost.

3. Becoming more efficient in transition

Last season, Simmons was 11th in transition possessions per game at 4.7. That mark was higher than Victor Oladipo, James Harden, Pascal Siakam, and more. However, he was 10th out of those 11 in converting transition opportunities, at just 0.94 points per possession. Additionally, he had the worst turnover rate in transition out of those 11, even behind Russell Westbrook. Considering his size, speed, and ability to handle the ball, he should improve in this area.

His turnovers generally are not a huge problem; last year he averaged 3.5 per game, a respectable number for someone who handles the ball as much as he does. However, he must improve his decision-making in transition. As the game continues to slow down for him, that mark should improve.

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Simmons was an All-Star in his second season as a pro. He’d be an MVP candidate if Joel Embiid wasn’t on the team. If he improves in these three areas next season, the NBA needs to watch out. Also, it wouldn’t hurt if he learned to shoot a three.