The Philadelphia 76ers have a dynamic duo in young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Simmons is the likely favorite for Rookie of the Year.
When the two players are on the court at the same time, the Sixers have outscored opponents by 9.7 points per 100 possessions. Simmons is now averaging 1.4 assists per game on passes to Embiid, whose presence for the squad has helped the rookie develop.
Duncan Smith wrote about why it is interesting folks have praised Simmons but not Los Angeles rookie Lonzo Ball (via The Athletic):
“Ball has a better on-court offensive rating than Simmons does when Embiid is off the court. Why that particular filter? Both are rookies but only one has a potentially generational big man to run with.
Amir Johnson, a much less effective player in the frontcourt, has started seven of the 30 games so far this season. This has not been fantastic for Simmons.
Philadelphia has been outscored by 1.0 point per 100 possessions when Simmons plays with Johnson. Opponents have also outscored the Sixers by 2.7 points per 100 possessions when Simmons plays with Richaun Holmes.
The worst five-man lineup for Philadelphia features Simmons and Johnson with Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and JJ Redick. They are winless (0-for-4) when this is their starting lineup.
Simmons is also a worse shooter when he is not playing with Embiid. Keith Pompey, who is a beat writer that covers the team, explained why he should shoot through the struggle (via Philly.com):
“What all of this boils down to is that Simmons, who knows the team needs to learn to play and win without Embiid, needs to be the one who leads the charge. Now is the perfect time to start shooting the ball. Opposing teams will not expect it, he’ll have wide-open looks, and the team desperately needs a Simmons jumper to be an available option.”
He is 74-for-97 (76.3 percent) in the restricted area when defenders have to account for his consistently dominant teammate. But when Embiid is resting, that accuracy has dropped to 63.2 percent because they can focus on him.
As such, Simmons has shot twice as often from midrange when Embiid is not on the court. But this is not one of his specialties and his accuracy is not great so far.
Given the injury history for Embiid, it’s clear Simmons will need to work on his jump shot for him to remain an effective player in the games when the big man is not active. Otherwise, the team could be in serious trouble.