Jonathon Simmons growing, expanding his game in preseason

ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 7: Jonathon Simmons
ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 7: Jonathon Simmons /

The Orlando Magic will ask Jonathon Simmons to expand his offensive game this season as the team’s sixth man. The preseason is showing just what he can do.

38. Final. 99. 79. 96

Nothing seems to phase Jonathon Simmons.

That should have been clear from the path he had to take to the NBA. He is not someone that is going to let a mistake keep him from making a play. And, if anything, he wants to make up for every mistake with a defensive play. Simmons has made his living doing this.

He makes his impact felt one way or another. It comes from playing so few minutes throughout his career. He had less time to go all out and his opportunities to make an impact are fewer.

It is easier to play seemingly with that kind of boundless energy and fire in a smaller role. It burns brightly and quickly. The role might limit opportunities but it was the best way to bottle up Simmons and get the most from him. At least with the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs knew some of his limitations and they had their structure to fit him into. Simmons admitted as he arrived in Orlando that the Spurs’ structured style did not fit his game perfectly.

Would the Orlando Magic’s structure work? Or their lack thereof. He looked forward at least to playing a more fast-breaking, open style.

He looked forward toward having a larger role too. The Magic seemingly promised this player who had averaged a scant 6.2 points per game last season. Orlando signed him to be more like the player who finished the season with Kawhi Leonard out with an injury.

This is an opportunity for Simmons. And Simmons is not one to let an opportunity go to waste.

He just now has to learn exactly how to play his new role.

That is largely what Simmons has worked to do throughout the preseason. And there is still some learning that has to go on. What the Magic are hoping to learn is just how far Simmons’ game can go. And they are seeing Simmons can take on more responsibility off the bench for this team. At least, for now.

Even in Monday’s game, with five rotation players sitting out including four starters, Simmons got the chance to show just what he might look like as the sixth man and leading scorer off the bench.

Simmons was aggressive off the dribble, trying to draw contact and taking on that responsibility as the primary scorer. He was a little lax with his shot selection, for sure. He was willing to hoist seemingly at will. Simmons had the green light to do so. The young guard will have to reign that in.

But overall, it is hard to argue with the scoring numbers even without the efficiency. It seems he is well suited for his role — with the occasional scoring outburst changing the game for the Magic.

Throughout the preseason, Simmons has shown some flaws. But he still has the skills to be effective and has produced in many ways for the Magic. So far, Simmons has undoubtedly been one of the Magic’s better investments this year.

Monday in the Orlando Magic’s 99-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center, Simmons was a driving force for the Magic once again. He liberally took shots and drove into the paint, trying to create for a team without its main creators.

Simmons finished with 19 points, making 6 of his 14 shots and 2 of his 5 3-pointers. He got to the line to make 5 of his 7 free throws. It was not the most efficient performance. No one is ready to give Simmons this kind of featured role full time.

Slowly he seems to be growing into this featured role he has never had before.

For whatever preseason stats are worth, Simmons is averaging 12.5 points per game in 21.7 minutes per game. He is shooting just 40.8 percent from the floor and 18.2 percent from beyond the arc (2 for 11). His usage rate, according to, is at 27.9 percent.

Simmons is certainly feeling enough freedom this preseason to push his game around. That has been both a good and a bad thing for the Magic in the preseason.

It has been good because this is the time for Simmons to experiment. Offensively, he has shown some ability to drive into the lane. Once Simmons gets there, he is still learning what to do with the ball. He is not yet a great distributor. That part is not natural to his game.

It has been bad because it has shown the limitations in his game. Or at least where his game has yet to go.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Simmons, of course, has not had this role in a regular season game. What he has done has worked in the preseason. And often with that second unit, Simmons will have to be the main creator. So what he is doing in the preseason is very close to what he will do in the regular season.

And Simmons, despite his penchant for hoisting 3-pointers so far, is not a great or reliable shooter. He surely is better than what he has shown to this point so long as he sticks to spot-up shots.

In general, Simmons is still working to improve his shooting and his finishing. There is a level of efficiency that Simmons is missing to get to the starter level.

But that is where Simmons will spend a good chunk of his season. He will spend it pushing his game to its limits and learning a new role.

But Simmons is clearly taking to this new role. He may not have all of its finer points down and he may not have the efficiency down yet. But Simmons is showing he can produce with the ball in his hands. He can be a high volume scorer off the bench.

Next: Grades: Dallas Mavericks 99, Orlando Magic 96

That may be all the Magic need from him in his expanded role this year.