The Stats Say Simmons
To say that the Sixers have an extremely important decision to make on draft day would be an understatement. The choice that they make on that evening may very well go on to shape and define the franchise for the foreseeable future.
In Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, the Sixers have two very promising prospects to choose from, but who should they pick?
The stats say Simmons.
In their lone collegiate season, Simmons bested Ingram in virtually every major statistical category, and most advanced metrics also. While college statistics alone will not determine the decision, they do serve as a viable comparison point. Minutes per game and usage rate between the two were almost identical, which adds further validity to the comparison.
Last year, Simmons outscored Ingram – 19.2 to 17.3 points per game -- while also posting a substantially better percentage from the field – 56% to 44% -- and a superior adjusted true shooting percentage; numbers indicative of the fact that Simmons was able to score with a higher efficiency.
Though the points per game numbers were relatively close between the two, a significant gap emerged in other areas. Simmons, who demonstrated an uncanny ability as a playmaker, especially considering his size, throughout his single season at LSU, averaged more than twice as many assists per game as Ingram, who was not really relied on for his play-making at Duke. Simmons notched 4.8 assists per game, while Ingram averaged only two. Additionally, Simmons was one of the nation's better rebounders last season, and thoroughly out-rebounded Ingram on a per-game basis; 11.8 to 6.8.
Ingram's lone major statistical advantage came from beyond the arc, where he shot a better percentage and at a much more prolific rate. Ingram made 80 three’s, while Simmons attempted only three all season, making one. This is obviously an extremely small sample size. With the increasing emphasis placed on shooting and floor-spacing in today’s NBA, there are some concerns about Simmons’ ability to incorporate that important aspect into his game consistently. On the other hand, concerns about Ingram’s ability to put the ball in the basket from deep are nonexistent.
While such apprehensions about Simmons’ shooting are reasonable, there are recent examples of other All-Star caliber players that were able to solidify their shot in the pros after shaky shooting in college. From ESPN’s David Thorpe:
“The knock on Simmons as a shooter is somewhat overrated. Let's not forget that another do-it-all type of NBA star was not a good shooter in college. In two seasons, Kawhi Leonard shot 20.5 percent and 29.1 percent from 3, yet is a career 39-percent shooter in the NBA -- making 44 percent this season.”
It’s not like Simmons shot is broken. Some prospects have a form that is beyond repair – sorry, Michael Carter-Williams. That is not the case with Simmons. Again from Thorpe:
“Simmons has a good-looking stroke, but he never looked as if he was willing to take 3-pointers, and was hesitant to take a lot of jump shots, period. Perhaps this was due to a coaching decision, as he was able to drive by or pass over most defenders. In the NBA, it is fair to expect he will shoot a lot of 3s and be at least good at it, in time.”
Simmons’ ability to develop his perimeter game could be the difference between him being an All-Star and a superstar, but at this point it’s not a crippling concern, due to his ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways. His ability to distribute the ball has some postulating putting him at the point guard position at the professional level, a la Magic Johnson. While his knack for cleaning the glass has others arguing that power forward is his ideal pro position. In Simmons, Thorpe sees a player with MVP potential:
“Simmons can be one of the top two players on his team in all three phases of the game (scoring, passing, rebounding) while being an elite defender. That puts his ceiling as a perennial All-Star, a max-salary player and, if he learns to be a better primary scorer, a recurrent MVP candidate.”
A player with the potential and ceiling of Simmons is exactly what the Sixers have been aiming to acquire throughout their recent rebuild. Simmons' stats paint the picture of a multi-faceted forward who could potentially serve as a franchise foundation for years to come.