Back in the Shaquille O’Neal days, NBA players and coaches knew that in a close game with time expiring, an effective tactic was to deliberately foul O’Neal and send him to the foul line.
They knew that “Hack a Shaq” was a way to preserve time on the game clock and to hold down the score, as O’Neal was a lifetime 52.7 percent free-throw shooter.
NBA teams opposing the Philadelphia 76ers last season knew that they could do more or less the same thing to Melbourne native Ben Simmons.
Simmons is more accurate from the charity stripe than O’Neal, but only marginally so, as he posted a 56 percent figure last season.
With the Rookie of the Year in his rearview, Simmons spent the offseason working with his older brother Liam to improve Ben’s jump shot and his free throw shooting.
If Simmons could get his average around the 70 percent range, opposing teams would have to abandon the “Hack a Ben” tactic.
In the cold light of objectivity, however, Simmons could raise his foul shooting percentage to the high nineties and it would not have much influence on the game, as he averaged only 4.2 foul shot attempts last season.
He should take staging lessons from LeBron if he wants to make his way to the line more often. James sinks about 74 free throws per hundred attempts, which is a leap beyond Simmons, but the real difference is that LeBron lives on the line in comparison to Simmons.
Brother Liam worked on Ben’s mechanics in terms of free throw shooting, slowing him down, getting him to keep his right elbow closer to his body and going for more of a push, rather than a fling.
The new motion for the jump and foul shots will go on display when Philadelphia plays its inaugural game of the 2018 – 2019 NBA season against the Boston Celtics.
With the Rookie of the Year out of the way, Simmons is free to focus on the next hurdle, which would be being selected to the All Star squad and leading his club to a Championship.