Patience is a Virtue: Ben Simmons

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Patience is a virtue, which is applicable to Ben Simmons’ career with the Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately for Simmons, the multi-dimensional quarterback of the Sixers’ offense, his tenure in the NBA has been overshadowed by his neglect to attempt three-point field goals. Furthermore, his shooting attempts within the perimeter, or lack thereof, provide no optimism for disillusioned fans that have already fallen victim to myopia, or nearsightedness.

Because Simmons’ progression has occurred horizontally, improving in areas of the game in which he already mastered, he is one of the most scrutinized players league wide. The efficiency that Simmons has demonstrated through just three seasons is historical. In fact, he joined some of the most prestigious company in the NBA statistically, while he was barely old enough to purchase an alcoholic beverage.

But Brock, Simmons is 6-feet-10-inches, he should dominate guards in the post! He should be the best rebounding guard! He should, He should, He should……Actually, you should shut up. Is it Simmons’ fault that his parents produced a child that would grow to that stature? Absolutely not.

Instead, contrary to basketball players of the same height, Simmons developed an offensive skill-set that very few players throughout the history of the NBA have harnessed. As opposed to being relegated to a stretch-four role at his height, Simmons established an offensive identity which features him as a primary ball-handler and facilitator. Simmons uses his height and athleticism to his advantage, which differentiates him from most-to-all other current point guards in the NBA.

The third-year point guard dilutes defenses within the paint, physically overpowers opponents with speed and strength, and dissects defenses with his unmatched court vision. Ironically enough, he consistently does all of this without the threat of a jump shot.

What will it take for him to continue to improve?

Simmons does not regularly need to fire away from beyond the arc, nor does he need to attempt a surplus of shots within the perimeter. Rather, he needs to slowly add the threat of a jump shot to his arsenal, in order to prevent defenses from sagging far enough to create a log jam in the paint.

Simmons’ jump shooting needs to improve in small increments over time, which contractually both he and Philadelphia have plenty of. To expect Simmons to, all of the sudden, feature threatening perimeter shooting and become a marksman within the arc is unrealistic. Continual growth for Simmons shooting the basketball, though, will certainly perplex defenses even further, leading to greater point production and sustained dominance.

76ers Intrasquad Scrimmage – Wayne Terry TPL

Simmons’ refusal to attempt three-point shots is not motivated by his inability to make them, but rather, strategy. Simmons’ size is certainly advantageous at the guard position, and his relentlessness around the rim and physicality getting there is seemingly unmatched by defenders. He causes defensive displacement when he penetrates the lane and constantly warrants defensive attention.

Simmons’ post-oriented half-court offense has proven effective, while hurling up three-point attempts would be more of a wasted possession for the Philadelphia 76ers.

For example, Kemba Walker and Russell Westbrook are attempting over 1.5 three-point attempts/game with 22-18 seconds on the shot clock, and both own a three-point field goal percentage of 22.5% or lower. Even James Harden and Kyle Lowry, trigger happy guards, attempt over 2.5 three-point attempts/game with 18-15 seconds on the shot clock, where both own a three-point percentage of less than 25.0%.

The truth of the matter is that a plethora of defenders sag off of opposing players, because of their low three-point shooting frequency and inability to convert those field goals. Defenders give Simmons cushion, not because he can’t make jump shots, but because they are daring him to shoot. And he won’t. But that’s okay, because defenses can do nothing to stop Simmons. Defenses are cognizant of Simmons’ refusal to shoot, and coaches employ defensive schemes that give Simmons enough space to shoot but try to limit his paint scoring. Yet Simmons has averaged a near triple-double every game of his career from ages 21-23, which means either 29 other defenses have no answer, or Simmons is getting really, really lucky.

The jump shot burden is not exactly hindering Simmons’ dominance, as he is one of the most consistently productive basketball players on this planet, but passiveness derails him in games. His play-making ability and awareness on the floor is unrivaled, but more aggressiveness will greatly benefit Simmons.

Relax though, Philadelphia fans.

Success and work ethic can not be supplemented. Those two are dependent on one another, but neither are built and earned overnight. Simmons’ body of work through just three seasons is so impressive for his age. He is just 23 years old, less than five years removed from college, operating at a high-caliber level.  

Simmons most commonly draws comparisons to Magic Johnson

76ers Intrasquad Scrimmage – Wayne Terry TPL

because of their resemblance in style of play and stature, but it took the Hall of Fame point-guard 10 seasons to attempt more than one three-point attempt per game. Likewise, Johnson produced 13.2 field goal attempts per game over the course of 13 seasons, and Simmons’ career average is just one attempt shy (12.3).

It took Michael Jordan seven seasons to win his first championship, and he shot less than 44.0% from the field twice before. The great LeBron James won nothing of any magnitude until his seventh year, shooting less than 48.0% from the field in all but two seasons prior to 2011.

Simmons owns a career 55.3% field-goal percentage, just below his career 56.8% true-shooting percentage (“[A] percentage that factors in the value of three-point field goals and free throws in addition to conventional two-point field goals”). He owns a career offensive rating of 112, a tick below Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career 113 offensive rating.

Oh, and Simmons also plays both ends of the floor.

If one thing is falling in Simmons’ third professional season, it’s his defensive rating, which is indicative of his improved defense. He owns a defensive rating of 98.7 in 2019, the best mark in his career. Not coincidentally, the Sixers’ defense is statistically the best it has been since 2011. Simmons comfortably resides within the top 5 league-wide in steals per game, deflections/game, screen assists/game (NBA Guards), screen assist points/game (NBA Guards), and assist points created.

In each of Simmons’ two-full seasons, he has contributed close to 10 win shares, owns one of the highest shooting fouled percentages in the NBA, drove to the basket and converted around the rim more efficiently than almost any other guard in the league, and engineered two consecutive 50 win seasons.

Oh, and the career 3.5 turnovers/game are not inexcusable, but they are inevitable. Simmons touches the basketball 96.4 times/game, fourth most in the NBA, makes 73.2 passes/game, the most in the NBA, and receives the basketball 73.4 times a game via pass, the fifth most this season.

Be patient and be appreciative of Simmons. He is a generational talent that is rapidly blossoming into a larger than life superstar. Good things come to those who wait, and the basketball gods delivered Simmons to Philadelphia in order to kickstart a revolution in professional basketball. Now, it is Simmons’ turn to deliver to Philadelphia what both he and the city crave.