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Was Ben Simmons, In Fact, “Ready To Take Threes Now”? (No.)

Ben Simmons not attempting a jumpshot
This is the closest thing to a photo of Ben Simmons attempting a jumpshot that I could find in Getty. It is not a photo of Ben Simmons attempting a jumpshot.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

It’s fine if you don’t remember this tweet, from Sports Illustrated‘s Justin Grasso:

On the whole, not remembering any given tweet, particularly a nearly year-old tweet by an SI/Maven content-miller, probably speaks well of your brain health. The thing I’d like to call your attention to here is the date of the tweet: April 21, 2020. That’s the day the following quote appeared in a Jackie MacMullan ESPN.com feature story about famously (or infamously) jumpshot-reticent Philadephia 76ers star Ben Simmons:

“I feel like I want to take [threes] now,” Simmons said shortly before his injury, “as opposed to being asked to force them up. It could be during the playoffs. I’ve prepped so much for it, when I do it, it will work.”

The injury referenced there is a lower-back nerve impingement Simmons suffered two months earlier, in late February of 2020; by the time MacMullan’s story published, the quote was already two months old.

That’s only one of the problems with using it to support the claim in the Grasso tweet—that Simmons, in April of 2020 (during the NBA’s suspension due to the novel coronavirus pandemic), was “ready to take threes now”—or the assertion in Grasso’s blog from the same day, based on the same quote, that “the two-time All-Star is finally turning a corner” in his willingness to shoot three-pointers. The other problem is the quote itself, which can just as easily (and perhaps more credibly) be read not as Simmons claiming to have achieved total readiness to shoot three-pointers “now,” but rather explaining that he would shoot three-pointers once he felt confident that he could do so efficiently, and not until then, and that he would make that happen “now” if he could.

That was my read on it, anyway, when I read MacMullan’s story back in April. But of course, it’s possible for me to be wrong! You can argue over this sort of thing pretty much endlessly, and fruitlessly, during a four-and-a-half-month suspension in play, or extended injury absence, or offseason. Only what actually happens on the court can demonstrate one way or another whether a given player is or is not ready to do any particular basketball thing.

About that. The NBA resumed the suspended 2019-20 season in July. Simmons logged around 86 minutes of play over three games before a knee injury ended his season; in those 86 minutes he attempted 30 field goals, and one three-pointer. He missed it. This season Simmons has played 1,228 minutes over 36 games; he’s attempted 403 field goals, and attempted a whopping eight three-pointers—three fewer than he shot in his rookie season, three years ago. 393 other players have more attempts than that. At any given time, there are 450 players on rosters in the NBA.