Aussies in NBA: The one Simmons-Shaq parallel we don't want
It's safe to say that Ben Simmons has lived up to the hype so far. No matter how you look at it, his rookie season's been an unqualified success, by any conceivable measure.
You wanna talk stats? Per game averages of 17.7 points, 7.5 assists, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 steals, with three triple-doubles included.
You wanna talk highlight plays? Take your pick:
Heck, he's even matching up to legends:
But he's also reminding some people of Shaquille O'Neal in a bad way - his free throw shooting. Ben is shooting a mere 55% on charity line shots, just a tiny bit better than Shaq's career 52%, and obviously on very much fewer attempts. Hack-A-Ben emerged in that game against the Washington Wizards, where he took a ridiculous total of 29 attempts - with an obscene 24 in the fourth quarter alone! - but could only manage to make 15 of them for a 51% success rate.
The Hack-A-Whoever strategy grinds the game to a halt and doesn't make for great viewing. Heck, it's boring enough shooting free throws, let alone watching someone else do it, especially when you've paid good money for the 'privilege'. The people have made their opinion heard to the highest power. But the NBA is all about results, and Scott Brooks almost stole one for the Wizards with the Hack-A-Ben strategy. You can't hate the player, you can only hate the game, so unless the league does something about this rule, players like Simmons will always have to deal with this tomfoolery.
To Ben's credit, he hasn't shied away from the issue, neither does he look afraid to face it going forward.
His confidence is admirable, but can he really start making them? His shooting has been the biggest question mark in his game since forever, and yet, two years after being drafted, he's clearly still not all that proficient at it. It's odd too, cos there's lots of evidence to suggest his shot mechanics aren't broken.
Maybe he should get in contact with Andre Drummond for some tips.
Still, let's not get too nitpicky. Simmons has been very impressive, and even with this one flaw in his game, he's been smart enough to find ways to effectively contribute. For someone with such a glaring weakness, you'd think defenses would be able to prepare for him easily, but nope. He regularly figures out how to get close to the basket, where he's finished well. So let's give him credit for that.
Simmons' reaction to getting targeted doesn't sound rash or overly-defensive, and it IS his first year playing in the NBA. The prognosis is optimistic. Chances are, he'll never be a Stephen Curry or a Reggie Miller or even a Jose Calderon when it comes to shooting, but just improving to becoming a serviceable outside shooter would put him on course for all-world status, given his other talents.
Simmons is singularly unique. Even in this modern age, where there are so many spectacular new player archetypes (Draymond Green, small-ball playmaking center, is perhaps the best example of this), there are still really only two other players in the substantial history of the league that Simmons' combination of size and skillset compares to: Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
In other words, once-a-generation players. I think that's pretty good, don't you?