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Ben Simmons is a top-tier NBA talent, and the stats back it up

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On yesterday’s Stepover Pod, I mentioned that Ben Simmons was responsible for 38.5 points per game (points scored + points assisted on). I didn’t have any league-wide context for that, so I tried to figure it out. In doing so, I found out that Ben Simmons is probably having a much greater impact on the floor than you thought. (I’ll bold the singular findings to cut through all the text.)

I started this post knowing I’d be surprised by the context for some of these stats, but even this most basic one blows my mind: Ben Simmons is 5th in NBA in assists per game (7.9) for people who have played more than one game (sorry, Chris Paul). The players ahead of him? Russell Westbrook, John Wall, James Harden, and LeBron James. Those are names. He’s again 5th in potential assists (14.8) behind those same four but in a different order. He’s listed as 6th in assist points created, but to be completely honest I don’t know how NBA.com tracks that stat - it doesn’t jive with how the numbers should look - and the numbers on Basketball-Reference, while more reasonable, are unsearchable in a league-wide context. So here’s where we do some manual math...

* does math *

Okay, I’m back. According to my math, Ben Simmons should be 7th in the NBA in points responsible for, so the league’s site was close enough, even though the numbers still don’t make sense to me. He’s behind Harden (49.1), LeBron (47.8), Russ (45.6), Giannis Antetokounmpo (44.9), John Wall (43.4), and Damian Lillard (39.6). Twenty of the points Simmons is responsible for per game come via assist, which would be 6th among the top-10 total point creators. This may not be 10000% exact, but it’s all I got.

So what is exact? Simmons’ presence on the so-called “Hustle” leaderboards. The NBA’s tracking info for every single game isn’t wholly up-to-date yet, but Simmons is 6th in the league in total distance traveled on the court, not surprising since he’s out there doing this all the time:

He’s also tied for 1st in the NBA in loose balls recovered per game, and tied for 4th in threes contested per game (Robert Covington is 2nd). That one really surprised me.

Doing some math again - be warned - if Simmons averages 7.9 assists on 14.8 possible assists per game, that means players are shooting 53.4% off of his potential assists, a whole 7.9% higher than their overall percentage on the season. Currently the Sixers are 13th in the NBA in FG%, if the whole team shot the percentage they do off of Simmons’ passes, they’d be 1st. His points-per-possession as a pick-n-roll ball-handler aren’t tops in the league, but at 0.80, he’s only .01 lower than Harden and Westbrook. Among players who attempt at least two field goals in transition per game, Ben is 2nd in the league in FG% (77.8%) behind Anthony Davis.

Ben Simmons passes the eye test with flying colors. Opposing fans (and Lonzo Ball stans) will make the argument that Simmons isn’t a true rookie, so of course he’s not playing like a real 1st year player. The problem with that? Simmons is impacting the game like a 5th year veteran, and he’s got a long way to go before he hits his ceiling.

*All stats via some kind of Frankenstein's monster of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com