The HoopsHype Weekly: This is not a drill. Ben Simmons is taking threes now

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The HoopsHype Weekly: This is not a drill. Ben Simmons is taking threes now

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The HoopsHype Weekly: This is not a drill. Ben Simmons is taking threes now

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NEW STYLE: If the Philadelphia 76ers do not see Ben Simmons shooting from three-point range, it will be increasingly hard to justify having him on the same team as Joel Embiid. With the way modern basketball is played, there is virtually no room on the floor for two players who cannot space the floor. Philadelphia has one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference, but their success will be limited if both Simmons and Embiid are in the dunker spot, clogging the floor and making their attack a bit too predictable. (During his three years in the league, Simmons has just five non-heave three-point attempts on 2,875 total looks).

The Sixers’ problems with spacing were exacerbated by the addition of NBA veteran Al Horford during the offseason. Horford, who signed a four-year, $109 million deal with the team, has shot just 33.7 percent from downtown so far this year. That ranked in just the 39th percentile among all players at his position.

Note that Philadelphia has averaged 27.8 attempts from three-point range per 48 minutes when Horford has played alongside Simmons and Embiid. Compare that with the 46.6 attempts per 48 that Houston has averaged with James Harden on the court with PJ Tucker and Ben McLemore. With numbers that are so wildly different, it is almost like the teams were out there playing entirely different sports.

The scrimmages have given the Sixers an opportunity to experiment with new looks for their rotation. Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown moved Simmons from point to forward on Friday. This brought Shake Milton into the starting lineup in the place of Horford. While the move may seem minuscule, it entirely changed the floor spacing.

Even more drastic, though: Simmons looked far more comfortable stepping beyond the arc for three-pointers. Brown said that it has been a new look for the 24-year-old star: “I feel like his spirit, his mindset coming down here, him willingly finding space and finding threes, that has been a paradigm shift. That has been an attitudinal change, a philosophical, internal decision that he has made because I have just seen a player that is cocky and just playing and when the game says you should shoot because nobody is on you, he does, and he doesn’t blink and his teammates love it and so does his head coach.”

Then in his first exhibition game, Simmons hit one from the corner, telling reporters: “I’m taking what they give me. I’ve been working on the three-ball and shooting it. I’ve been feeling comfortable … just trying to evolve and be a better player.”

SUCCESS OF A KING: We examined the success that LeBron James has had against teams in the Eastern Conference and compared it to how well he has played against teams in the West. This shows he was destined for greatness, no matter which conference he played most of his career.

BOL BOL SZN: NBA rookie Bol Bol recorded 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks during a scrimmage at Disney World for the Denver Nuggets. We broke down what he did in the G League to analyze what he has done as a pro thus far. Also included: GIFs of his game footage!

NBA COMBINE: USA TODAY Sports Media Group’s Rookie Wire obtained a list of the 105 prospects who have received the most votes to potentially be invited to the 2020 NBA Draft Combine. While it is unclear if the combine will happen (as it was postponed due to the virus), this gives us a better sense of who is catching the interest from teams and front offices.

FRESH INTERVIEW: Our own Bryan Kalbrosky caught up with two-time America East Conference Player of the Year Anthony Lamb. After four seasons at Vermont, the 6-foot-6 forward told us about how he has been preparing for the draft.

TOUGH DECISIONS: College basketball prospects who are “testing the waters” are currently running out of time to decide if they will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft. These are the players who have the hardest choices to make moving forward.

NEW OWNERSHIP: There are some familiar names currently interested in purchasing the Minnesota Timberwolves, including one group led by former NBA MVP Kevin Garnett and another 2007 first-round pick Arron Afflalo.

FREE AGENT RANKINGS: This offseason will feature a much weaker class of free agents than usual. We took a look at the top players who will hit the open market once the season ends.

NBA KNOWLEDGE: We have a new NBA crossword. The theme is the Los Angeles Lakers.

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