By Harry Allison
Sixers camp starts this Friday at the team’s training facility in Camden, and coach Brett Brown is bullish on the Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz combo.
Brown says both players have put in the work needed on their jumpers, though neither player will ever become defined by his work beyond the arc.
Brown said Fultz took about 150,000 shots this summer under the tutelage of trainer Drew Hanlen. Simmons has worked with his brother, Liam, a former college basketball assistant coach, at 3s and shooting from the elbow.
Simmons attempted just one 3 in the postseason, and he’ll have to establish some sort of long-range jumper to become a serious all-around threat in the NBA.
“His jump shot’s not going to define him,” Brown said. “At some point, it will sure help. But I have aspirations, ambitions for him where I want him to feature on an all-defensive team. I personally want to post him more. I look forward to using him as a screener and giving Markelle the ball and let him roll out of it, that Blake Griffin-sort of half-roll and go to dunk.”
Simmons also needed work on his free throws — he made 191 of 341 for just 56 percent last season.
“Imagine if he can score one more point, it translates to like three to five more wins,” Brown said. “When I look at how you’re going to do that, that’s one way that interests me, let’s just get him more free throws. Can you finish, can you be a better free-throw shooter than you were in the regular season? He has to be.”
Fultz, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 draft, had his rookie year derailed by a mysterious shoulder injury, a broken shot and confidence issues. He played the first four games, missed 68 games because of injury and then was benched in the playoffs against the Celtics. Fultz struggled with his mechanics when he did play, and his shooting form was widely mocked around the NBA. No one in the organization could pinpoint when Fultz’s form went awry, though he started experiencing soreness shortly after he was drafted.
Brown said he was part of a “Team Markelle” formed this summer to help get the 20-year-old back on track.
“When I see him now come back into our gym, you look at his swagger, his cocky side, his mojo, he’s seeking shots,” Brown said. “He really is not bashful. When I look at the actual form, there are times, from a posture standpoint, he’s a little bit backward. When you look at him rising up, or getting the ball in his shot pocket, sometimes his head will go back and he’ll play more in a fade-type fundamental that we want to try and correct.”
But if Simmons can’t shoot and Fultz can’t shoot, then how are they going to play together on a Sixers team that won 52 games last season?
“At (some) point of the game, is it the start, is it ending, those two guys will play together,” Brown said. “There’s zero doubt we’ll go through some growing pains as everyone expects and should expect.”