Years after the Sixers tanked their way to drafting him in the first place, Ben Simmons is undergoing his own kind of process as an actual real-life NBA shooter. After not making a single 3-pointer through his first two years in the league, or really any kind of jump shot for that matter, Simmons got Sixers fans excited with summer videos showing him draining shot after shot in pick-up games.
On Nov. 20, Simmons finally hit the first 3-pointer of his career. It came against the Knicks, which feels so fitting in so many ways. Anything -- and I mean anything -- is possible when the Knicks are involved.
Now, it's happened again. On Saturday night, Simmons cashed in from the corner for the second 3-pointer of his career during the Sixers' 141-94 annihilation of the Cavs.
Say what you want about Simmons, to this point in his career, being gun shy or even shooting with the wrong hand, but that shot looks comfortable. It looks repeatable, at least given that much space. It's a slow grind, obviously, but every time Simmons hits a perimeter shot, especially a three, it's going to be a big deal because shooting is the only thing holding him back from being one of the best players in the world.
Simmons also hit this nice fadeaway off one foot on Saturday:
That's not a conventional jumper, and Simmons has at least shown flashes of being halfway comfortable in this range in the past, particularly when fading away. But it's still progress, if only from a confidence standpoint. Because that's all this is. Confidence. Simmons isn't going to turn into Klay Thompson, but he can clearly shoot a basketball from a functional standpoint. It's just a matter of willingness.
Simmons' offense has been so-so overall this season. His unwillingness to shoot is still a huge problem for the Sixers' spacing, and one shot doesn't change that. But he's getting there. Simmons tied a career-high 34 points against Cleveland on Saturday, and all season long his defense has been exemplary.
Most importantly, the Sixers are 16-7. They're not playing great. The top of the East is a lot better than the perception. But Philly is right there, and if Simmons can slowly add a even a few jumpers to his arsenal here and there, I still think they'll be right there with the Bucks as the best team in the East come playoff time.