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In an age when NBA players are posting workout videos to Instagram and their trainers have become must-follows on Twitter, we wonder why we haven’t seen Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons tirelessly working on the jump shot that proved a major flaw in his game during the Eastern Conference finals.
Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe Simmons is finally considering a switch from his wayward southpaw jumper to a potentially more accurate right-handed shot. Or maybe this is wishful thinking.
In his latest newsletter, New York Times scribe Marc Stein went in depth on the league’s best left-handers, and within was this nugget: “some expect” Simmons to go “all righty this season.” Now, “some” is awfully vague. Are we talking people around the league, other reporters or even fans? Still, this is the first we’re hearing anyone legitimately expecting Simmons to start shooting right-handed.
Except, Simmons shot this suggestion down, laughing off the suggestion he might switch hands:
— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) August 15, 2018
It’s no funner than a point guard attempting one 3-pointer in the playoffs. Oh, well. Maybe next year.
Ben Simmons ‘was supposed to be right-handed’
This concept did not completely come out of left field. Simmons attempts the vast majority of his shots around the basket with his right hand, and the vast majority of his attempts come around the basket. He also threw out the first pitch at a Philadelphia Phillies game in May with his right hand.
Ben Simmons warms up shooting FT’s both left and right handed. Definitely better form right handed. pic.twitter.com/uncHpc9MBE
— Andrew Diehl (@centralpahoops) November 22, 2017
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has been banging this drum the loudest, first suggesting publicly the LSU product might be shooting with the wrong hand in a February 2016 article for SB Nation. Simmons himself had said a few days earlier that, “I think I was supposed to be right-handed. It’s all natural now.” His awkward shooting form suggests otherwise, as do the facts that Simmons finished 0-for-11 from 3-point range as a rookie and shot 27.8 percent on lefty mid-range jumpers this past season.
“He simply looks like a righty trying to shoot lefty,” a Western Conference scout told O’Connor of Simmons prior to the Australian being selected No. 1 overall in 2016, “and he’s capable of switching.”
ESPN’s Jalen Rose and Doris Burke both also believe Simmons is shooting with the wrong hand. During the playoffs, Rose suggested “that’s something that has to get corrected,” while Burke told The New York Times, “I think he might be shooting righty next season.” Maybe that’s where Stein came to this.
J.J. Redick suggested a switch to Simmons
Simmons’ own Philadelphia 76ers teammate, sharpshooter J.J. Redick, said on his podcast in April that he “suggested [switching hands] to Ben.” Redick added, “Ben is incredible because he’s literally the most receptive young player that I’ve been around. He seemed open to the idea. I don’t want to mess with him. I also think since I said that to him, which was like October or November, which was the first time I saw him shoot right-handed, he’s gotten better left-handed. So I don’t know if it’s necessary.”
Redick made a similar suggestion to DeAndre Jordan during their tenure with the Los Angeles Clippers. Like Simmons, Jordan does a lot with his right hand and shoots free throws terribly with his left.
Likewise, Sixers coach Brett Brown said at the start of last season that “we freely talk about” shooting with both hands, calling it “a curse and a blessing.” Still, as The Athletic’s Derek Bodner posited, learning to shoot righty when you’ve spent a lifetime shooting lefty could take more than a summer.
Regardless of Simmons being a natural righty, trying to retrain a decade+ of muscle memory is something you would *almost* never suggest. But the baseline of infrequency and ineffectiveness breathe life into the debate.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) November 30, 2017
The Celtics used Simmons’ weakness against him
In the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics took daring Simmons to shoot from distance to an extreme, building a wall at the rim with their bigsthat forced the rookie to operate from the perimeter. This removed much of what made Simmons so special — the explosions into the paint that created easy shots for both himself and his teammates. The strategy resulted in so much success that there’s no doubt other opposing teams will begin employing it with greater regularity in the regular season.
Of course, Simmons saw similar defenses throughout his rookie campaign and still managed to average damn near a triple-double. That ability combined with an effective jumper is a frightening opposition for the rest of the league, which is probably why some expected him to do everything within his power to improve his shooting this summer, including the possibility of switching hands.
But unless Simmons’ crying laughing emoji is merely misdirection, it appears any improvement he made this offseason will come with his left hand. We just haven’t seen him post it on Instagram yet.
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