Through 8 games of his professional career Ben Simmons has satisfied skeptics on his way to locking up the 2018 NBA R.O.Y. Award (not up for debate, sorry). The ambitious comparisons to league legends that preluded his long-awaited debut are validated with each performance. So far he has posted at least 10 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in every game – the only other player to begin their career on such a streak is Oscar Robertson, who did so in his first ten appearances.
To get a better idea of the type of impact Ben Simmons is having relative to other first-year players I scrambled his stat line in a table with 4 of the most prolific rookie seasons in NBA history. Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, and LeBron have the three best of the ‘post-Jordan’ era and I threw in Magic Johnson because he’s the most frequently compared to Simmons. See for yourself if you can confidently tell which player is which. *(Note: the stats are ‘Per 100 Poss.’ to adjust for pace and minutes per game)
Per 100 Possessions (all rookie seasons)
(stats from basketballreference.com)
It’s certainly not impossible to discern which stats belong to what player but the greater point is that it takes a little studying to sort them out. Furthermore, if I asked you to point out the worst line it’s likely that Simmons wouldn’t even be your first or second choice.
If you’re still unsure, Ben’s stat line is actually the second one; LeBron is 1, Duncan 3, Griffin 4, and Magic 5. If you misplaced Simmons you probably had him swapped with Magic. Now think about that for a second – basketball fans that couldn’t quickly identify his line had it confused with one of the top-5 players of all-time, and to the common fan’s eye it’s impossible to single out his rookie season from a group of first-ballot and future first-ballot Hall of Famers’. I’m not saying he’ll be a first-ballot HOF’er (although I wouldn’t bet against it) I’m merely making the case that he’s in the midst of a once in a generation rookie season. I know conventional wisdom tells us that his numbers will level-off a bit as the season progresses but there’s equally as much reason to think they could move in the opposite direction.
“I thought I’d be playing better, honestly.”
I wouldn’t blame you if you attributed the above quote to Lonzo Ball or Jayson Tatum, but it’s actually from Simmons recently in an interview with Keith Pompey. Clearly he’s confident his number will rise, and that point isn’t unfounded. If you watch the games he’s left many more points on the board via missed layups and free throws, two things I expect him to clean up as he gets his legs under him. I could harp on more reasons why his numbers won’t deflate – shot selection improving, more opportunities – but I’ll spare you.
Through 8 games the comparisons between league greats are evident, much like Embiid’s comparisons were validated early last year. It’s only November 3rd and I have no problem etching his name on the Rookie of the Year trophy. Hell, at the pace he’s going we should start mentally preparing ourselves to see him tossing alley-oops to LeBron because there’s a strong chance he’ll make the all-star game later this year. Make no mistake about it, Ben Simmons is in the midst of a historic rookie season, and he’s just getting started.