By John Hooper
Ben Simmons has had a historically good start to his NBA career. With almost of a quarter of his rookie season now in the books, we thought it would be fun to compare his year thus far to the rookie seasons of some of the great point forwards in league history.
First, let's take a peak into how he's stacked up versus the competition with his minute and pace adjusted numbers:
Impressively, his slash line is closest with Magic Johnson's rookie campaign, but with superior scoring, assist, and rebounding numbers. Magic was a more efficient scorer, however, which is large in part to a much larger portion of his points coming from the free throw line.
Simmons' and Grant Hill's rookie years have very similar Usage Rates, True Shooting Percentages, and aversions for three pointers, but Simmons appears to be a more productive player overall.
Simmons' and LeBron's rookie seasons appear to have the least in common, with LeBron being the only member of the group to have shot a significant portion of his attempts from deep, plus having had by far the highest Usage Rate of the group.
Next, let's look at how Simmons matches up with the same players across various ages in their careers:
A few things jump out here. First, if Simmons maintains his current productivity through this season and shows moderate improvement through the next 3-4 years, Grant Hill can now be thought of as a conservative projection for his career.
Secondly, LeBron made a huge jump in his overall impact from his first year to his second. His dramatic improvement in his scoring efficiency was one of the main reasons for this. Simmons making a similar leap to around 60% True Shooting would potentially elevate him to all-time great range territory.
Let's look at the shooting statistics for that second season of LeBron's career when he made the efficiency leap and compare it to Simmons ' rookie year:
Simmons' effectiveness from various distances on the court lines up surprisingly well with LeBron's year, other than on shots from behind the arc. Simmons has also been diligent on taking the majority of his shots close to the basket, with 72.0% of them having come within 10 feet so far, much higher than LeBron's 44.8%.
Since Simmons adding a three point shot by next year is a bit of a pipe dream, an area of focus we'd suggest for him should be the 10'-16' range. An approach that we'd like to see is to either emphasize developing his shot there, or eliminate it from his arsenal altogether, because shooting 29.8% on a segment of your shots that represent 21.8% of your attempts is obviously not ideal.
One last chart, just for fun:
A higher portion of Simmons' shots are dunks than any year in LeBron's career. Not mad at that.
Long story short, Ben Simmons is really fucking good (as we predicted). So far he's on track to at least be Grant Hill, and has an exciting amount of statistical similarities to Magic Johnson. Having a career arc similar to Magic's appears to be within the realm of possibility if Simmons can become a more efficient scorer.