Ben Simmons has been receiving a lot of heat lately - maybe rightfully so - I’m not sure – so I decided to take a look at him compared to a couple of Hall of Famers who notoriously couldn’t shoot at his age either.
I looked at Simmons’s stats this year at age 22, compared to Jason Kidd at the same age and Magic Johnson at 22, as well. Kidd, like Simmons was in his second year in the league. Magic was in his third year at age 22, after only playing in 37 games the season prior.
The stat comparison is interesting and I think suggests we should, of course, be more patient with Simmons, whose statistics are at least comparable to the two Hall of Famers. But, criticism of Simmons’s unwillingness to shoot is on point, as it has rendered him absolutely no threat from the perimeter and become a mental block that has almost certainly affected other parts of his game.
Simmons actually shot a better % from 2 (57%) than Magic (55%) and way better than Kidd (40%). Kidd, known as a terrible shooter in 1995-96, actually shot a respectable 34% from 3 and took a surprising 4.9 3s per game. Magic took 0.4 3s per game in 1981-82 and made 21% of his attempts. Simmons took 0.1 3s per game this year at a 0% clip. At this stage of their careers, Kidd was a threat from 3, Magic was a threat to take one every couple games, and Simmons is not a threat at all.
Magic was also just better than Simmons or Kidd. He was Magic. Johnson averaged 18.6ppg, 9.6rpg and 9.5apg, compared to Simmons’s 16.9, 8.8, and 7.7. Kidd averaged 16.6, 6.8, and 9.7.
In terms of efficiency, Magic led the way with a 22.9 PER, but Simmons was not far off at 20.0, ahead of Kidd’s 17.8.
Many have argued that Simmons’s weaknesses are pronounced most in the playoffs, to the point where he is ineffective. That seems to bear out, at least compared to Magic. In 10 playoff games this year, Simmons’s production has dipped to 13.3ppg, 6.9rpg, and 6.1apg, his 2-point shooting has been good at 60%, but he has not attempted a 3. Magic attempted 0.3 3s per game in 14 playoff games in 1982, but did not make any. However, his overall production remained strong, averaging 17.4ppg, 11.3rpg and 9.3apg. Kidd did not make the playoffs in 1996.
So, it’s too early to give up on Simmons as an elite, Hall of Fame type of player. He needs to at least start taking some 3s in order to be a threat and develop confidence so that eventually some of them will go in. That would put less pressure on the rest of his game, particularly in the playoffs. But, it is also clear he is no Magic Johnson.