Ben Simmons: A Look at Three Point Shooting Development

Author: Ben Calkins (Weinberg ’20)

In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics, Ben Simmons recorded a single point in 31 minutes of play. People began to raise the questions, can Ben Simmons be an effective player with a complete lack of outside shooting? Can he ever develop a jump shot? There are strong voices on both sides of the debate, with some pointing to his unorthodox usage of his weak versus dominant hand, while others emphasizing the fact that he’s only twenty-one years old.

It’s difficult to determine a historical standard for this debate on shooting development in the case of Ben Simmons for a couple of reasons. It’s not only that he is a little shy of the three point line.  He actually refuses to take shots from there, averaging 0.1 attempts per game, and shooting 0 percent on those attempts[1]. Over the past ten years there are only four players to have ever shot 0 percent from three during a season in their career and also eventually shoot 35 percent from three in any season: Lamarcus Aldrige, Pau Gasol, Brook Lopez, and Chris Bosh[2]. These players all accomplished going from essentially nonexistent shooters from range to fairly efficient long-range threats.  Every single one of these players, however, is a power forward. They occupy vastly different roles than Simmons, who takes on a majority of the ball-handling responsibilities of his team while playing 74% of his minutes at point guard[3]. The big men only ever had to develop set three-point jumpers that they could utilize in pick-and-pop situations or just to spread the court in general. Of course it would be advantageous for Simmons to be better at standing in the corner and launching three-pointers, but that skill might take away from his primary responsibilities, whereas for players such as Bosh, extending his range to the three-point line was a seamless addition to his arsenal, as he does not assume the same ball-handling responsibilities.

If we make the distinction of analyzing only point guards who have shot this poorly from three in their first reason, the amount of data is very slim. Within the 21st century only nine guards have shot 0 percent from three, and none of those players have ever developed into even half-decent three point shooters. There is no precedent for point guards entering the league with this much adversity to long-range scoring, but there are many success stories of point guards going from well below average to reliable three-point scorers. Two players that Simmons gets compared to frequently, Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson, both entered the league shooting in the 20 percent range from three and by the end of their careers both players registered seasons in which they averaged over three three-point attempts on at least thirty-eight percent from three[4]. People that believe in Ben Simmons often point to this kind of progression to believe that he’ll eventually develop in to a long range scorer, but neither of those players were ever as adverse to pulling up from range as Simmons has been this season.

At the end of the day, it is hard to say whether or not Simmons will ever be able to add a three-point shot to his game. He’s twenty-one years old and has plenty of time to develop any aspect of his game, even if no point guard has ever made the amount of progress Simmons would have to. However, even if he doesn’t ever figure out how to shoot he’s an incredible talent that just posted the greatest rookie season since Blake Griffin seven years ago. He averaged 15.8-8.1-8.2 while shooting 54 percent from the field, and has proven himself as the Rookie of the Year no matter how people feel about his series against the Celtics[5]. He has a unique blend of size and speed that compliments his ungodly passing ability, and no matter what Celtics fans might be saying, every single one of them is scared to death that he might add a jump shot to his game.

[1] “Ben Simmons Stats.”,

[2] “Player Season Finder.”,

[3] “Ben Simmons Stats.”,

[4] “Player Season Finder.”,

[5] “Ben Simmons Stats.”,


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