Ben Simmons hinted he was planning to shoot more in Disney World. In practices, he made a believer out of Brett Brown, who did little to lessen the hype.
Simmons potentially taking - and making - open threes confidently and with regularity should be a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.
"I get excited and as I said this [yesterday], it's the paradigm shift, it's the spirit," Brown said in a video conference postgame Friday. "He doesn't flinch. The sport told him I'm open, nobody's guarding me, shoot it and he did. … There wasn't any hesitation of what's next, what decision do I have to make now."
Yes, it was a scrimmage, but Simmons looked natural attempting outside shots. The fact that he even attempted more than one seems encouraging in itself.
The first came in the first quarter as the ball swung to him in the corner. He came up a little short on it. A similar situation arose in the third quarter on a Tobias Harris drive and Simmons again found himself open in the corner. This time, the shot went down.
Simmons addressed the situation in his typical nonchalant way.
"Just play," Simmons said when asked about hitting a three. "We've been practicing, we've been working. Just finding that corner, I'm very comfortable over there at shooting those shots, so I'm glad my team is finding me."
Simmons taking threes will grab all the headlines, but it shouldn't take away from his overall performance. Starting at power forward for the first time in his young NBA career, Simmons flourished. He had nine assists (with just one turnover), seven rebounds and three steals in a little under 23 minutes.
The change in position didn't lessen his impact as a playmaker. In some ways, it might make him a more effective one in the half court with the ability to play at the elbow. We got a small glimpse of what the two-man game between Simmons and new starting point guard Shake Milton can do.
And it's not like the position change takes the ball out of Simmons' hands completely. He's one of the most dangerous transition players in the NBA. The Sixers still plan to utilize Simmons' speed and ability to create in the open floor.
"I can almost simplify it like this: On any missed shot, I want Ben with the ball," Brown said. "Any time the opposition team misses and we're running, I want Ben Simmons with the ball and let him get to the rim and dunk or find another shooter. It's really that clean and that simple.
"On made baskets, when it's a little bit slower and say Joel [Embiid] takes it out, I want Ben taking off and letting him maybe get something cheap over the top or circling back and playing at that elbow area where it's hard to sag and he's one dribble at the rim."
Moving to the four didn't affect Simmons much defensively. A potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate and All-Defensive First Team selection, Simmons showed off what makes him so special on that end.
Simmons can guard just about anybody on the floor. The last time the Sixers played the Grizzlies, he was tasked with guarding the explosive Ja Morant, who stands at 6-foot-3, and basically shut the Rookie of the Year favorite down. On Friday, Simmons was mostly charged with defending the 6-foot-11 Jaren Jackson Jr.
The NBA's leader in steals and defensive loose balls recovered showed his disruptive nature all game long. He helped the Sixers force Memphis into 14 turnovers in the first half.
He's still making adjustments offensively, but the move to the four won't mitigate his defensive prowess.
"I can guard 1-5, I can play everywhere," Simmons said, "but catch me in those positions and I love those spots. I work on getting touches from those spots, my footwork there. Just got to keep working and take what's given."
Simmons didn't necessarily agree with Brown's "paradigm shift" assessment but conceded that this is the next step in his evolution as a player.
"I think just changing the style of play, I guess … not really," Simmons said. "I'm taking what they give me. I've been working on the three ball and shooting, so I've been feeling comfortable. Still getting to the rack too, I can attack and find my guys. … Still trying to play my game and trying to evolve and be a better player."
Already a two-time All-Star, Simmons just turned 24 earlier this week. We've already seen what he can do at 6-foot-10 with guard skills offensively. He's taken his game on the defensive end to another level this season. If the three becomes a normal part of his game to the point where defenses can't sag off him, that should be a frightening thought for the rest of the league.
Even scarier is that Simmons' best basketball appears to be in front of him.
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Ben Simmons' best basketball is ahead of him and that's a scary thought originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia