Whether it’s on offense or defense, Ben Simmons is a force to be reckoned with.
Things were looking bleak for the Philadelphia 76ers, who combined for just 38 wins in the last two years. Led by Joel Embiid, who had only played in 31 games in three years — reminding everyone to “Trust The Process” — Philadelphia hasn’t exactly inspired confidence that the organization knew what it was doing.
But those who’ve been skeptical may find themselves having a change of heart. Fans now have a reason to put their trust into “The Process,” and that reason is Ben Simmons.
Ben Simmons, The Point Guard?
It was no secret Ben Simmons was drafted number-one overall in 2016 because of his amazing passing skills, in addition to the guard-like handle he has on top of his power forward size at 6‘10. His court vision was off the charts, compared to the likes of all-time greats Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd. But many people questioned whether Simmons could run an offense at the NBA level.
An article by NBC Sports, “NBA Question of the Day: How will Ben Simmons do?” wrote, “As tempting as it might be to have a 6-10 point guard on the floor, the Sixers know they can’t do that.”
Just 12 games in, Simmons is putting all of that criticism to rest, as he’s pacing a near triple-double to start the season with 17.4 points per game on 48.6% shooting, nine rebounds per game, and 7.8 assists per game as the team’s point guard.
Although he lacks a jump shot, which often can be developed over time (with the exception of John Wall, it seems), Simmons has already shown he has enough of an offensive repertoire to be an above-average scorer in this league. He’s explosive enough to drive by defenders, has a solid post up game, can finish at the rim with either hand, and has a nice inside 15-foot pull-up jump shot/floater (whichever you perceive it as).
The video below gives flashes of everything Simmons has to offer.
It’s easy to assume that NBA rookies will struggle defensively as they adjust to the degree of difficulty of playing against the world’s best basketball players night in and night out. With that in mind, take note of just how good Simmons is playing defensively.
Simmons is proving to be the best defender among NBA rookies this year. The graphic below shows that Simmons ranks as the top rookie in defensive points saved (DPS).
Heading into games on November 12, here’s how all NBA rookies have fared in TPA throughout the 2017-18 season: pic.twitter.com/IBr8WexUwq— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) November 12, 2017
What’s even more impressive is that Simmons ranks 23rd amongst all NBA players in total points added (TPA) (Per NBA Math). Simmons’ ranking in that statistic puts him among other NBA All-Star caliber players, such as Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green, and Kyrie Irving.
Ben Simmons stretched out his arm, Mr. Fantastic style, and swiped a fast break steal off a Rubio pass. He’s looked so good defensively tonight. Also did this: pic.twitter.com/sEA5hdpkCG— Paolo Uggetti (@PaoloUggetti) November 8, 2017
The statistic that can really show how well Simmons is playing defense is his defensive box plus/minus. Currently, Simmons ranks 11th amongst ALL NBA players at a 3.4, ranking behind the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert. Not bad company to be in when discussing defense.
Simmons also ranks first in defensive win shares amongst all 76ers.
Playing At An All-Star Level
Now if Simmons played in the West he probably wouldn’t have a legitimate chance at an All-Star bid. With four Eastern Conference All-Star forwards all going to West teams this offseason (Carmelo Anthony, Paul Millsap, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler), and Gordon Hayward’s gruesome injury, the door is open for plenty of newcomers in the East, one of which should turn out to be Simmons.
Take Butler’s numbers last year as a standard for an Eastern Conference All-Star. Butler averaged 23.9 points per game on 45% shooting, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game. Yes, Butler’s points per game numbers have a distinct edge over Simmons. But Simmons’ averages edge him in field goal percentage, rebounds, and assists.
Simmons plays an extremely smart game that comes from his off-the-charts basketball IQ. His shot selection shows he has taken 92 of his 159 field goal attempts this year within six feet or less from the rim, making those attempts at a 59.8% clip (updated through 11 games per basketball-reference.com). Simmons’ smart shot selection should keep his scoring numbers consistently high, around the 20-point mark.
Simmons’ rebounding numbers also shouldn’t take a hit either due to his supporting cast. Simmons is right below Embiid on the 76ers’ roster in rebounds (nine per game). The next best rebounder for Philadelphia? Amir Johnson at just 5.8 per contest.
With Simmons and Embiid clearly doing the majority of the work on the boards, their rebounding numbers shouldn’t decline much on this 76ers team.
We should continue to see big-time numbers out of Simmons going forward, and if we do, don’t be surprised to see the rookie win honors this year such as an All-Star bid, Rookie of the Year, or perhaps even an All-NBA nod. Simmons is putting the league on notice that he is one of the NBA’s biggest young superstars.
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