Ben Simmons left last night’s game with a minor sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder. The Sixers could have used his floor running, defense, and drive-and-kick ability in the two-point road loss.
Prior to picking up the injury, he had taken just two shots, one a post-up and short hook and the other a drive to the rack that he couldn’t get to fall. Those two looks came in just 10 minutes of play.
So it’s a small sample size, and perhaps the timing of this story is strange, but there’s carryover from Monday’s game, which carries over from the first five games of this season and 82 games played last year, plus 12 playoff games. Ben looks like the same exact offensive player we’ve seen from day one, and he’s only tried one shot from outside of the paint this year, as you can see right here:
That one red ‘X’ on the right side baseline represents a turnaround fadeaway that Simmons tried in the Portland game, a game in which he played very well otherwise, scoring 18 points and adding 11 rebounds and eight assists in Joel Embiid’s absence.
Ben hasn’t tried anything from further than 14 feet this year, according to NBA stats, which is, of course, troublesome. They haven’t needed him to shoot in previous years, ripping off 50+ wins anyway, but one of the other problems here is that Ben is playing below his averages around the rim as well, which looks like this on a hex map showing his shooting percentages relative to everybody else in the league:
Blue is not what you want to see here. You want orange and red.
Ben is about 3% below the league average at the rim and almost 10% worse on those turnaround fadeaways that he occasionally tries. For context, he shot about 55% from two-point range during his rookie and sophomore NBA seasons but is only hitting at 49.4% this year. His free throw shooting is 56%, down from 60% and matching his first year in the league. He’s only getting to the foul line 3.6 times per game, down from 5.4 last year.
Here’s another image that tells the story:
91.1% of his looks have come right around the rim while the other 8.9% are in that short range jump hook/turnaround area. He’s taken zero three pointers and most of his drives and post ups occur down the right slot or on the right-hand block.
We’ve written ad nauseam about how the lack of a three point shot results in spacing issues for other players, but I’ll give you a couple of stills from last night that exemplify how Ben too often becomes a bystander when the Sixers are working in the half court:
Dunker spot, defenders sagging off, or just a general paint clogging.
You’ve seen this before. It’s on Ben to take the next step offensively and an early-season shoulder sprain doesn’t do anything to help the cause. He is an All-Star without the jump shot and a perennial MVP candidate if he ever develops one.