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On Simmons and Left vs. Right

Should Benny switch hands on his jumper? Maybe, but only as a last resort.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation's Kevin O'Connor wrote an excellent article recently hypothesizing that Benny might benefit from switching the hand with which he takes jumpshot. Read the whole article here, but I wanted to offer up some of my own thoughts.

First things first: this could really work. It's obviously too late for this season, but long-term, switching hands very well could lead to a marginal improvement shooting the ball. But, Simmons doesn't have great touch around the hoop with either hand (though he's gotten better as this season has gone on) and that doesn't bode well for him to make a switch at this point. The disparity in numbers is likely caused by the fact that he prefers to dunk with his right hand; dunks obviously account for a high percentage of his field goals. It'd be one thing if he had discovered the game relatively late in life (as some prospects do, see Giannis Antetokounmpo), or if his offense game wasn't otherwise best suited for the perimeter, but that major of an overhaul of his shot would take some real-time, and throw a real wrench into his current abilities in the meantime (visions of Rondo with his defender sagged 6 feet under him at the top of the key come to mind.)

I think more realistic/important is that he get in the gym with an NBA-level shooting coach, which he obviously will once this season is over and he heads to Vegas or California to work-out at an elite-training facility. He needs to commit himself to improving from the charity stripe first and foremost, as that will be essential for him to score efficiently at the next level, not to mention it will have the added benefit of helping to correct his form/mechanics if successful. Kevin does a great job illustrating some of the issues with his shot, but it's not that broken, at least not to the point where you'd want him to spend at least a year working with an elite shooting coach before making such a radical change. Kawhi Leonard was pegged as lost cause coming out of college; an undersized 4-man who couldn't shoot worth a lick. After 4+ seasons working with famed Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland, Leonard is now knocking down deep-balls at a 48.2% clip this year (and just under 40% for his career, which really speaks to his progression during that time.) That's the model to follow, and while there's only one Chip Engelland, any NBA shooting-coach, and any personal trainers that Simmons' agent will set him up with during the pre-draft period and off-seasons, will be an improvement over the coaching he's received thus far in his life.

Again, I wouldn't be surprised if his eventual NBA team ends up advising him to make that switch, but that should be seen as more of a last resort than anything else. While his ambidexterity has helped his game in so many ways, as it allows him to have great handles, pass at an elite level with both hands, and get to the rim/lead the break going either way, it doesn't make him a shoe-in candidate for such a major adjustment. Still, the shooting woes are a major issue for Benny going forward, and they've certainly factored into close Tiger losses this year. While it's a glaring fault, and by far the weakest component of his game, it's also a learnable skill that I have no doubt Simmons will figure out during his post LSU years. Don't let any click-bating Benny-hating analysts tell you otherwise, this kid is still the surefire number one pick in the draft. Brandon Ingram from Duke is definitely enticing, but the combo of Simmons' size, vision, and athleticism are an NBA rarity that fit in perfectly with the direction the league is moving in. He's maybe not at the holy-shit-can't-miss level pro prospect we thought he was before the season began, but he's not as far off as some would lead you to believe. Right now, he's 85% great and 15% average, but the 15% sticks out so much it makes you think its 40%. Ben Simmons shot is fixable, and if he gets that figured out, he'll find a way to live-up to his pre-collegiate hype.