Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons’ torturous 3-point barrage

Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

To trust or not to trust, that is the question for fans of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers’ motto, seemingly cemented for both past and present, is “Trust the Process.” Even as the team transitions from laughing stock to contender, the phrase meant to honor Sam Hinkie’s visionary rebuild continues to find startling relevancy.

A number of questions still plague the Sixers’ roster, the endless uncertainty around Ben Simmons‘ jumper chief among them. Fans have wanted Simmons to shoot 3s since he set foot in the league. At this point, Simmons is 2-for-23 from deep in his career.

Simmons has talked about shooting more 3s several times, but he hasn’t yet followed through. When he mentioned the possibility of shooting more 3s once the season resumed in Orlando, the initial reaction from most fans was skepticism — and rightfully so.

Yet here we are, a couple weeks into the Sixers’ Orlando stay and already questioning the universe. Simmons has been caught on camera (multiple times!) hitting 3s in practice. And not just simple open jumpers in shoot-around. He’s been hitting them in the flow of 5-on-5.

Why is this any different than before? Should we really trust him? Is this just another meaningless front, which will only lead to disappointment when the season resumes and Simmons recedes back to the dunker’s spot? All valid questions.

The answer, of course, is who knows? Any comments from Simmons about his jumper up to this point have been marred by distrust, and I expect that to continue until he proves it consistently against full-tilt NBA competition. This is undoubtedly a mental battle for Simmons, and until he gets over the hump on national TV, it’s difficult to proceed with unbridled optimism.

And yet, this does feel different. Simmons has hit 3s before, but it has never been boosted by the Sixers’ social media and by Brett Brown to this degree. The NBA is casually posting videos of Ben spinning into fadeaway corner 3s. It’s clear the Sixers, for better or worse, are gassing up this “Simmons might shoot” stuff.

Here’s a clip of Brett Brown talking about Simmons’ jumper while Simmons nails multiple 3s in the background. The shot looks good. If this were any normal player, the reaction would be, “yeah, this guy can shoot, I’m sure he’ll take some.”

The Sixers are clearly gaslighting the “Ben might shoot” narrative. This may backfire, it may fade gently into distant memory, or it may be a true sign of things to come. Maybe Simmons is really ready to flip the switch. Maybe the past four months have been a transformative experience for Simmons, who spent a lot of time in the gym rehabbing his back.

More provocative than even the Sixers’ PR spin, however, is this video of Simmons working out over the hiatus. Someone off-camera comments on his jumper and says he should shoot more. Simmons nods and offers a curt response: “Orlando.”

So there it is from the horse’s mouth. Simmons essentially telling an awestruck spectator he will, in fact, shoot 3s in Orlando. He will unleash his honey-sweet stroke on the NBA’s unsuspecting defenses. If it feels different, it’s because Simmons specifically pinpointed a time and location. An unmistakable, un-fudge-able time and location. I doubt he’s talking about a Sixers road trip to Orlando in 2021. He’s talking about the bubble.

The question persists — should you trust Simmons? Should you expect him to shoot 3s when the season resumes?

Unfortunately, the answer also persists — I don’t know.

The blind optimist in me, perhaps swayed by the generally positive vibe around Philadelphia, thinks Simmons is legit. Orlando will mark a true turning point his career. He will transition to power forward, he will spend more time off-ball, and he will start pulling the trigger on a handful of open 3s.

On the other hand, every person who follows the Sixers is an experienced cynic who’s well versed in the pain of NBA fandom, and more specifically, Sixers fandom, a very unique and special brand of pain. From that perspective, the default position is doubt.

Next. 2020 NBA Mock Draft 4.0. dark

All we can do is wait and see. This torturous game of social media cat-and-mouse, in which Simmons, the Sixers, and the NBA continue to tease fans is borderline cruel. We need games to start. For everyone’s sake. And to finally know the truth. Again.