There’s been a lot of hype in the city of Philadelphia as of late. The Eagles are Super Bowl Champs, the Flyers are looking like they could sneak into the playoffs, and the Sixers are pretty much locked up as a top team in the East. But the most exciting thing in my eyes won’t be happening for another couple of years.
Ben Simmons is a freak of nature. This Australian who played college ball as an LSU Tiger has a set of skills we’ve only seen on a few guys before: their names are Magic Johnson and Lebron James. At 6’10 he is taller than either of them, but he still has the same skills that made them deadly. Ben can pass with the best of them, rebound like a center, and block shots like Anthony Davis. But the scariest thing in my opinion about this rising superstar is his overall basketball IQ. Most rookies struggle in this department when they get to the NBA, especially when they immediately become their teams primary ball handler. They make a lot of mental errors and this shows up in their Field Goal Percentage (not taking high percentage shots) and Turnover ratio (not making smart passes) . But Ben Simmons seems like he hasn’t missed a beat, shooting over 50% from the field and only turning the ball over 3.7 times a game, while dishing out 7.3 assists per game.
It’s clear that Ben Simmons is already a lethal weapon on the basketball court, but just how good is he going to be? One way to make an accurate prediction of that would be to compare him to a similar player, when that player was a rookie. When Lebron James was a rookie, he averaged 21 points, 6 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and .7 blocks on 41% shooting. Ben Simmons is currently averaging 16.4 points, 7.3 assists, 7.8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 52% shooting. If Ben Simmons and Lebron had their rookie years the same year, Ben Simmons would probably get Rookie of the Year. He is more efficient, he gets more rebounds, more assists, and he’s better on the defensive end. It would be a close call, but Ben would win it in most cases.
Now some people might make the argument that you can’t say Ben is on a better track than Lebron was because Lebron came right out of high school. For the sake of the argument and my own interest, I did a comparison with him and Magic Johnson. In my eyes, Ben is more like Magic than Lebron. Just like Simmons, Magic played NCAA ball before coming to the the NBA (even winning an NCAA title for Michigan State). His first season in the NBA, Magic averaged 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.4 steals, and .5 blocks on 53% shooting. He also won his second very big trophy in the form of an NBA title, beating who else but the Philadelphia 76ers, 4 games to 2.
Magic’s statistics almost mirror Ben’s, which should be incredibly exciting to any 76ers fans. Clearly Magic had the edge his rookie year, but one could make the argument that he was better prepared, playing 3 years at Michigan State compared to Ben Simmons’ one year at LSU.
Regardless of who will go down with the better rookie year, Ben Simmons is mirroring the stats of guys who went down as not just some of best basketball players ever, but some of the greatest overall athletes we’ve ever seen. These are guys who’ve won multiple championships, MVPs, and made countless all star appearances. If Ben Simmons stays healthy and perhaps develops his jump shot, I think he may be following in the footsteps of these two greats. And just maybe, with one of the easiest schedules in the NBA ahead of him, perhaps he will finish with a better year than either of them.
Written By: Pat Doyle.