Ben Simmons conceded he is "not a great shooter", but the Philadelphia 76ers guard feels his other strengths make up for that.

Coming into this season Simmons is 0 for 17 from beyond the arc in his career, but last week he hit a three-pointer in a preseason game against Guangzhou.

"I am confident to say I am not a great shooter," Simmons told reporters.

"I am getting better, though. It is a game. It is five people on the court. I lack something that I am not that great at, but other areas I am very great at.

"I run the floor as well as anybody. Physically, I can rebound the ball at 6-10. As a point guard, I can guard 'one' through 'five'. That is one thing that is coming into my game which I am excited about. I love getting better; I love spending time in the gym and building that confidence."

But while he has struggled with his shooting previously, Simmons has been seen repeatedly making shots in practice and plans to make it a part of his game this season - at least more so than he did over his first two NBA seasons.

"It is something I have been working toward getting better as a player, as you would do as a writer. Everybody works to get better," he added.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid wants to win the NBA's MVP award and lead his team to the Eastern Conference top seed following a heartbreaking season.

The 76ers fell agonisingly short of a Conference Finals berth after succumbing to Kawhi Leonard's stunning Game 7 buzzer-beater and eventual champions the Toronto Raptors in May.

Embiid – who dealt with injury and illness throughout the playoffs – was left in tears after the game but the All-Star is setting huge goals in 2019-20, having been haunted by the loss to the Raptors.

"Last year I played the most games I've ever played, 64. This year I see myself playing over 70 games," Embiid told ESPN.

"That's going to be good for us because we're trying to get the number one seed and we're trying to win over 60 games. It's going to help me because I need that team success if I want to win be able to win MVP or Defensive Player of the Year."

"Last year I started off too high, playing 35-36 minutes a game and then I started slowing down," said Embiid, who averaged 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds during the regular season.

"This year, we're going to start off, not slow and not a minute restriction, but we'll start off at the right number, like 30-31 minutes to start, and then as the season goes on you start ramping up.

"It's hard to balance it. I'm competitive. I want to be out there with my guys. But you can win MVP playing 70 games."

The 76ers head into the upcoming season as one of the challengers once again, despite the departures of Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, thanks to the re-signing of Tobias Harris and arrivals of Al Horford and Josh Richardson. However, all eyes will be on 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons and his shooting.

Simmons averaged 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists last season to earn his first All-Star selection, but the former number one draft pick's three-point struggles and reluctance to shoot from beyond the arc were well documented.

However, after a gruelling off-season with an emphasis on his shooting woes, Simmons said: "If it's open, I'll take it.

"It just changes the dynamic of the game and the way guys have to guard you. Once I get into rhythm and feel comfortable, I think it will change a lot of things."

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will not play for Australia at this year's FIBA World Cup, though he will feature in exhibition games against the United States.

After initially making himself available for August's World Cup in China, Simmons announced on Tuesday that he will skip the tournament and instead focus on the upcoming NBA season with the 76ers.

While he is set to sit out the World Cup, Simmons will travel to Australia for a pair of games against Canada in Perth on August 16 and 17 before facing Team USA in Melbourne on August 22 and 24.

"I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I've made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China this summer," Simmons – who has signed a new five-year contract with the 76ers – said in a statement via Twitter.

"I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games.

"I'm really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving close to 2020 where I will be honoured and humbled to represent my country on the world's biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.

"Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new team-mates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season."

The 76ers selected Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he has played a large role in the team's resurgence as an oversized, do-it-all playmaker.

Philadelphia put together one of the most talented starting line-ups in basketball last season, featuring Simmons, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as they finished third in the Eastern Conference before falling to the Toronto Raptors in the second round.

The 76ers lost Butler and Redick this offseason, but acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford, giving them tremendous defensive potential.

Ben Simmons has officially agreed to a new long-term deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team announced on Tuesday.

The Sixers confirmed a five-year extension, starting in 2020, but did not reveal the terms of the contract - reported to be a max deal worth $170million.

Simmons, who turns 23 on Saturday, was in the last year of his rookie contract.

"Ben Simmons is an important piece of our core and he is one of the NBA's most dynamic and talented young players," general manager Elton Brand said.

"It was a priority for our organisation that we finalise a contract extension with Ben this summer. He was Rookie of the Year in his first season, an All-Star in his second and we expect him to continue grow and succeed for seasons to come.

"Ben positively impacts the game in so many ways and we look forward to continuing our championship pursuits with him as one of our leaders."

The Australian was drafted by Philadelphia with the number one overall pick in 2016 but missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury.

Simmons finished last season averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game and helped lead the Sixers to the second round of the playoffs, where they were agonisingly beaten by eventual champions the Toronto Raptors.

Ben Simmons has reportedly agreed to a max deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that will pay him $170million over five years.

Agent Rich Paul is said to have confirmed the agreement to The Athletic and ESPN on Monday. 

Simmons, 22, was in the last year of his rookie contract and was slated to make $8.1m in the 2019-20 season.

It will mark his third year in the league after he missed his entire rookie campaign due to a foot injury.

Simmons was drafted first overall by Philadelphia in 2016 and has already become a star, despite the delayed start to his professional career. He won Rookie of the Year in 2017-18 and earned All-Star honours this past season.

He finished last year averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 assists per game and helped Philadelphia to the second round of the playoffs, where they were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors in seven games.

The balance of power continues to shift in the NBA, as Kawhi Leonard's decision to join the Los Angeles Clippers makes the league a lot more interesting.

At the beginning of 2018-19, many seemed to believe the road to the NBA Finals ran through the Boston Celtics. Then the Milwaukee Bucks posted the best record in the league just a year removed from finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. 

But it was the Toronto Raptors who dethroned the
Golden State Warriors in the end, and now they will have a new look without their superstar. Plenty of other teams are hungry for glory and now is the perfect time to strike.

Here are three teams that could now take over the Eastern Conference:

 

Milwaukee Bucks

The Eastern Conference is now wide open, but the Bucks are ahead of the pack. After all, they retained two All-Stars — one being reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee underwent a serious transformation under Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer last season. Antetokounmpo has put up historically strong numbers in the paint, but the Bucks were also among the league leaders in three-point attempts.

Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will likely be constants, but it remains to be seen how the chemistry will be after losing Malcolm Brogdon.

Milwaukee simply have the centrepiece every other team wish they had in Antetokounmpo, so there is no reason to count them out just yet.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers may have lost an All-Star-calibre player in Jimmy Butler this offseason, but they will be just fine.

Philadelphia were one circus buzzer-beater away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season and are bringing back plenty of talent in 2019-20. The 76ers flipped Butler to the Miami Heat in exchange for Josh Richardson and lured Al Horford away from the Celtics, giving them what might be the best defensive line-up in basketball.

Small Ball? Philadelphia have never heard of it, as the shortest wingspan on their current roster is 6-10. 

The 76ers' starting group will likely feature Richardson, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. And then there is second-year guard Zhaire Smith, who was voted the most athletic player in the 2018 NBA Draft by his peers but missed most of last season due to an unfortunate allergic reaction.

Philadelphia have size, playmaking, strong defense and four players that could get legitimate All-Star consideration in the coming season. Embiid's questionable health could be a facto but getting a versatile big like Horford that can fill in if he goes down will definitely keep the 76ers in contender conversations.

Brooklyn Nets

Even if Kevin Durant cannot play until 2020, the Nets should be better this season. They lost D'Angelo Russell to the Warriors, but Kyrie Irving can be a considerable upgrade if the pieces come together just right.

Both Russell and Irving are high-usage guards, but Irving is more efficient and poses the kind of threat that makes every player on the opposing team watch him when the ball is in his hands. 

Brooklyn added veterans in DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple that should pair nicely with returning pieces like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who was one of the most prolific three-point shooters in 2018-19 — converting 47.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

But the wild card is Caris LeVert, who arguably was the Nets' best player before a leg injury sidelined him last November. The 24-year-old guard was establishing himself as Brooklyn's go-to guy and now he has had a whole offseason to recover after showing flashes of his potential in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Adding Durant to a group like this could prove to be lethal and would certainly make the Nets a force to be reckoned with.

Team World's two-game wining streak is over as Team USA took home a 161-144 victory in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday.

Kyle Kuzma led all scorers with 35 points and passed Kobe Bryant for the most points ever by a Los Angeles Laker at the game.

Kuzma was named the MVP for his efforts.

Jayson Tatum added 30 points with nine rebounds and Ben Simmons led Team World with 28 points on 14-of-17 shooting with six assists and five rebounds.

Simmons against smaller guards is simply unfair

Everyone knows Simmons is good. He was nearly an All-Star in his first year, won the Rookie of the Year and was selected to his first All-Star team this season. All this after he was selected as the number one overall draft pick three years ago.

But something we do not get to see a lot of – for good reason – is Simmons going up against smaller guards. Donovan Mitchell drew the unfortunate duty of guarding Simmons early and he gives up seven inches to the Australian. He could not have done much to stop him even if he had tried.

Simmons, while tall, is also quick with the ball and is nearly unstoppable going to the basket if he has a mismatch. Those size advantages he had in the first half led to a nine-of-10 shooting performance from the second-year man.

 

John Collins – dunk preview

John Collins was simply showing off in the first half. He was throwing down ridiculous dunks left and right and had the crowd in Charlotte oohing and aahing.

It is easy to see now why he is in the dunk contest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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