The highs and lows of Ben Simmons this 2021 season have been a microcosm of Simmons’s career. Simmons is no stranger to the controversy that comes with his game. His reluctance to take threes or jump shots of any sort has placed him under a large microscope for NBA pundits and fans ever since he’s joined the league. “He can be the next LeBron James if ever he gets a jump shot,” a reminder Stephen A. Smith gives us every time Simmons is mentioned; however, adding that element to his game isn’t what will propel him to the same level as LeBron.
Having a respectable jump shot certainly helps, but it isn’t what makes LeBron one of the all-time greats — he’s shot the three and free throw at a 34.5 and 70.3 percent rate for his career, respectively. That has helped mold his legacy; it was never the foundation. James’ consistency and aggressiveness are what put him at the top of the NBA in his 18 seasons. Those two things are crucial factors when you have such tremendous talent.
Ben Simmons, also remarkably talented, has struggled ever to match his aggressiveness with his talent consistently. He does so on the defensive end, and he deserves all the credit in the world for becoming a premier defender in the NBA. Yet on offense, it comes and goes far too frequently.
“It’s not easy to do that, change the way you play. Certain things in the game come naturally to certain people. I feel like I’m figuring it out. Obviously, my scoring has been a lot higher the last five-six games. As long as I can keep doing that, stay locked in, keep working my mental, it’s scary,” Simmons said.
This quote was after what we thought would be the turning point in his career, the 42 point game against Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz. Rather, it was just a tease on just how dominant he can be on offense if he really wanted to be. We’ve seen glimpses of this in quarters throughout the years, but never a full game of Ben in attack mode.
Highs and lows of Ben Simmons
Simmons has been on a cold streak ever since the All-Star break. His touch around the rim has been poor, he looks disinterested in scoring and hasn’t put up anything like his excellent play before the All-Star break.
- 18 games before All-Star break: 18.9 PPG/7.0 RPG/7.3APG/62.2 FG%/69 FT%/5.6 FTA
- 17 games since All-Star break: 12.6 PPG/7.2 RPG/6.2 APG/47.9 FG%/52 FT%/5.8 FTA
Simmons went from playing the best offensive basketball of his career in that 18 game stretch to having arguably the worst stretch of his career since then. The major factors that have caused his downfall are his field goal percentage and free throw percentage — two areas he was posting career-highs before vanishing from his game unanswered.
Let’s begin with his field goal percentage, which is now the lowest of his career. A big reason Simmons was averaging nearly 19 points was because of his touch in the floater area. Simmons has always taken his baby hook shots and floaters since he has entered the league. But not once has it looked as good as it was this season.
These kind of shots would always go in.
He’d shoot an outstanding 53 percent in that 18 game stretch while also shooting 67 percent around the rim. Since then, he has been shooting only 32 percent from the floater area and 62 percent around the rim, per Cleaning The Glass. The nice feathery touch has evaded him. Instead, his touch looks heavy and disjointed.
Now his free throw shooting is the other component that has mired his game. Similar to the GME stock, Simmons’ free throw percentage spiraled like never before, inexplicably dropping. But not even GME has dropped as bad as Simmons’ free throw percentage, considering where it was beforehand. There’s just no way to defend an All-Star who makes his living around the rim shooting as poorly as he does from the free-throw line. It is a cause for concern with how close the playoffs are.
The one positive here is that he does go to the line on a much higher percentage than before. He’s fouled on 19.1 percent of his shot attempts, which is 2.8 percent higher than his next highest amount he set in the 2018-2019 season.
This isn’t the first time Ben Simmons has an up and down season
We can go back as early as this year, where Simmons had an awful start to the season.
- Simmons first 13 games played 2020-2021: 12.2 PPG/9.2 RPG/8.0 APG/49.6 FG%/64.2 FT%/5.2 FTA
It was the same case last season also.
- First 24 games of 2019-2020: 13.7 PPG/7.0 RPG/8.3 APG/56.4 FG%/58.1 FT%/3.9 FTA
- The 29 games after that: 19.6 PPG/8.7 RPG/8.3 APG/59.6 FG%/65.1 FT%/6.5FTA
The free throw attempts and percentage go up drastically, and so does his desire to get to the rim. Some of it can be attributed to Joel Embiid’s absence which is fair as you get more touches and the added responsibility on offense. But it still doesn’t warrant the major fall off the cliff Simmons has had.
Which version of Ben Simmons will we get?
The playoffs are just around the block and we still don’t know what version of Simmons will show up. Everyone has bad stretches, but for Simmons, the change is so drastic and it happens far too frequently for it to be ordinary.
The Philadelphia 76ers have championship aspirations, so that the playoffs will be a huge test for Ben Simmons, given the inconsistent season. We talked about LeBron and his consistency that helped shape his career. The highs and lows of Ben Simmons are nothing new. If Simmons ever wants to shade his success, then the best time to find that consistency will be in the playoffs.
Main Image Credit