In a three-happy NBA, Ben Simmons is going against the mold out of necessity.
That header is the only picture of an actual Ben Simmons three I could find.
Ben Simmons has played 22 games this season. He’s attempted 326 field goals. Technically, eight of those are threes, but not really. Seven of them were last second heaves from the other side of the court*. Here’s the eighth:
You can even see it in cute little “x” form on Ben’s shotchart:
If you extrapolate out Simmons’ FGA to a full season, he’s on pace to attempt 1,162 shots. Based on the math, 29 of those will be threes. But since none of them are really threes, I don’t think that number will be that high. But let’s pretend it will anyway.
Guards have only attempted 1,000+ field goals with 50 or fewer 3PT attempts five times since 1998. Tony Parker did it twice. Dwyane Wade did it twice. Andre Miller did it once. That’s it. The fewest long range attempts among those players was Miller with 34 in 2008 (right here in Philadelphia).
Once you expand the list to include forwards and centers, you see some more names. Active players include past seasons from Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Respectively, those players have attempted 39, 116, 53, 1, and 39 threes this season (Dwight Howard’s solo attempt was also a heave from about 32 feet with the clock running down). Davis, Griffin, and Aldridge (especially pre-injury Griffin this season) have followed the trend of the league and made the long-shot part of their arsenal, out of necessity. Ben Simmons is still a rookie, but he’s trending the other way, out of a different kind of necessity (the fact that he can’t make the shot).
Ben will likely toss up a couple more heaves this season. Let’s say he throws up 12 total, because 29 seems way too high. He’s currently on pace to attempt 1,162 field goals on the season. If he attempts just 1000 FGs and a dozen threes, he’ll be the first non-big (PF or C) to shoot so few threes and so many shots since … Luol Deng in 2006-2007, and I’m not even sure if he should count. If you’re looking for “guards,” because while he may be 6’11” Ben Simmons is a guard, you have to go all the way back to Rod Strickland in 1993-1994.
If we operate under the assumption that even if Ben does attempt a normal three this season he isn’t going to make it, he’s in even rarer company. Players have attempted 1000 FGs and made zero threes only 23 times since the year 2000. If you once again go to guards only, that number drops to six players since the three-point line was invented: Tyrone Corbin (1990), Rolando Blackman (1988), George Gervin (1985), Norm Nixon (1983), Rickey Green (1982), and Walter Davis (1980). Ben Simmons could be the first guard to attempt 1000 shots and make zero threes in his lifetime.
The only guard in the NBA who has a lower 3PT frequency than Simmons is Shaun Livingston. He’s attempted one three this season (shot clock was running out, but he had the ball for a couple of seconds before). He averages 4 FGA per game. Ben puts up 14.1 shots each night. Livingston and Simmons are also the only qualifying guards (played at least 19 games) rocking a long-range percentage of 0.0%. If you expand the selection to all positions, Simmons and Livingston are joined by only 28 other players, a sign of how widespread the three-pointer is in the league. Of all those players, Simmons has the most FG attempts, points, steals, and assists.
I don’t know if Ben Simmons will ever develop a reliable three-point shot. I am pretty confident that at some point in his career, he’ll make at least one three. But if it’s not this season, he’ll be in very unique company.
*Simmons’ 7 heaves this season lead the league. Jeff Green and Kristaps Porzingis are next with 4 each. Last season only Steph Curry and Marcus Smart tossed up more than 7 all year. The season before? Curry and Corey Brewer.