The impact that Ben Simmons provides the Philadelphia 76ers occasionally seems to create controversy among NBA analysts and fans. He clearly provides value in a multitude of ways but has limitations that continue to be emphasized.
Simmons is putting together another strong season with averages of 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists, and 2.2 steals per game through 23 games. While it’s clear that he makes a strong defensive impact both on the ball and in team defense, it’s important to focus on his offensive skill set separated in two parts; scoring and facilitation.
A strong microcosm of Simmons’ impact as a player was his performance during the 76ers’ recent 97-92 win over the Nuggets. He made a real impact on the game mostly through his defense while showing greater sophistication as an orchestrator of a team’s offense.
“I think if you look at the stat sheet, it might not reveal what he did defensively in the second half,” said Brown, via Ky Karlin of Sixers Wire. “I thought defensively in the second half, he was elite. I, too, see an emerging more sophisticated point guard, somebody that’s understanding a little bit better about who needs the ball and recognizing clocks and 2-for-1 type stuff. I don’t think his stat sheet wouldn’t reflect really how well I think he played, especially defensively.”
Above all else, Simmons is producing a tremendous 1.434 points per possession when accounting for his scoring possessions and assists. That level of efficiency ranks the best among the 46 other players in the NBA that have logged at least 500 overall offensive possessions, which is a testament to his positive influence on a basketball game.
When looking strictly at Simmons’ scoring production, it’s clear that’s where significant improvement can be made. He is producing a mere 0.879 points per possession. That output ranks 85th among the 91 players that have registered at least 300 scoring possessions. It gets worse when filtering solely for his scoring impact within the half court as his output is just 0.796 points per possession.
There have been some key problem areas for Simmons in the scoring department so far in 2019-20. His most frequent play types aside from transition (31.5%) and cuts (14.5%) have been post-ups and pick-and-roll ball-handling — both are areas where his execution as a scorer has been troubling.
Aside from Kristaps Porziņģis, no player that has at least 50 post-ups is scoring less efficiently than Simmons. In addition, he has been the least efficient scorer in pick-and-roll ball-handling situations among all players with at least 25 attempts. These are two areas that are simply going to need to improve.
It would easier for Simmons to make a greater impact as a scorer within the half court if he were more willing to let it fly from beyond the arc. At least showing more of a willingness would open up the floor a bit more for his teammates and could perhaps make driving conditions more favorable for himself, too.
Despite still having clear room for growth, Simmons is contributing at a high level. That’s a true testament to his potential.