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Do the Sixers have a legitimate chance to win the Eastern Conference?

According to NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh, the answer is yes if Ben Simmons is firing jump shots.

In Haberstroh’s preview of the Eastern Conference for the NBA’s restart in Orlando, he writes, “The Sixers are the second-best team in the East if Simmons is willing to space the floor.”

From the piece: 

Simmons needs to shoot if for no other reason than to keep the defense honest. If he knocks down a couple in the seeding games, opposing defenses will at least have to pay attention to him when he trots out beyond the arc. And that will free up Joel Embiid and Horford to get cleaner looks in the paint.

We’ve covered this subject plenty in the past, and it’s always been in hypothetical form. The winding history of Simmons’ jumper only includes two regular-season NBA makes from three-point territory. It was noticeable in the Sixers’ scrimmages that Simmons generally stayed behind the arc in the corners off the ball instead of being in the “dunker’s spot” or leaking into unhelpful areas, which has been problematic at times for the Sixers’ team spacing. 

The idea of “keeping the defense honest” might be a bit hopeful. Haberstroh later raises the name of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has attempted 4.8 three-point shots per game this season and only made 30.8 percent, as the player Simmons can be. However, the blueprint for defending the reigning MVP is still to play well off him and attempt to stifle his penetration. Unless Simmons truly shocks the world, he’ll surely still be a greater threat to defenses as a driver than as a shooter.

Simmons’ shooting three-pointers when play officially resumes would still be a major development, even if one can understand why Brett Brown believes it’s an “overrated” topic given Simmons’ status as a two-time All-Star. We’ll all be monitoring his willingness to let it fly on Saturday night when the Sixers play the Pacers in their first of eight seeding games

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