Even though Ben Simmons is only in his second year with the Philadelphia 76ers, there is a lot of noise surrounding his missing jump shot. Is this criticism warranted or even necessary? A typical college graduate would be given more than two years in a job to impact an organization. But this is the NBA. Simmons is already a star with only minor flaws to develop in his game.
Players selected with the top pick in the draft had better be ready, with every aspect of their game. But this is an unrealistic expectation. Ben Simmons is not the player he is going to be…yet. There is a reason even top draft picks are on rookie scale contracts. There is still so much for any player to learn.
Simmons has already been receiving comparisons to LeBron James. While this is high praise, it is also unfair. A second-year player is being compared to someone who is in the conversation for being the greatest of all time. Simmons is the first Ben Simmons, not the second coming of James.
Simmons was incredible in his rookie season. He played 81 of a possible 82 games, averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. He was able to average these incredible numbers in just 33.7 minutes, all without a reliable jump shot. Despite this fact, Simmons shot at 54.5 percent from the field.
This season Simmons is playing at a slightly elevated level from last year. He is up in points (16.4 per game) and rebounds (9.2 per game). While slightly down in assists (7.9 per game), steals (1.3 per game ) and blocks (0.8 per game). Simmons is doing this in 33.3 minutes per game which is half a minute less per game.
His efficiency from the field is climbing as well. Simmons is shooting the ball at 57.4 percent from the field thus far this season and taking less shot attempts per game this season. Fewer shots and hitting more of them, and still, there is noise about his lack of shooting.
Simmons is also setting records with his triple-double numbers. He has collected 18 in just 120 games. Putting this into perspective, only Oscar Robertson is ahead of him. Simmons is also now the youngest player to achieve a triple-double with zero turnovers with more than 20 points.
A Cause for Celebration
With these numbers and his impact on the game, why are we not celebrating what Simmons can do rather than what he can’t? He is a 6’10” player with a quick first step, instincts that can’t be taught, explosiveness around the rim with tremendous court vision and a passing ability which has to be seen to be believed.
He better resembles Giannis Antetokounmpo, not LeBron James. The Milwaukee Bucks star does not have a reliable jump shot either but has proved quite successful. Like Antetokounmpo, Simmons causes mismatches on offense and alleviates mismatches on defense.
Simmons is surrounded by solid floor spacing shooters and which allows him to play to his strengths. Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala all have long-range games which defenses have to respect.
This is not to say that Simmons does not have elements of his game which must be improved for him to reach his potential. One glaring weakness is his free throw shooting. He has a career number of 57.1 percent from the line which is simply not good enough. This is more important to work on than a 3-point shot. With Simmons work ethic, coaches and fans should expect this number to improve over the next couple of seasons.
As he grows, so do the Philadelphia 76ers. His rare talent, athleticism, and ball movement will be a force in the league for a long time, even if he does not develop a reliable jump shot.