Ben Simmons has drawn a lot of comparisons to Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, and it’s time to put these comparisons to rest.
The Chosen One. Prodigal Son. King James.
Ben Simmons doesn’t have any nicknames that give him high expectations of being a generational talent. But who needs nicknames when you can have player comparisons? Simmons gets the high honor of being compared to the best player in the NBA.
James was often compared to Magic Johnson, and still is for that matter. By the transitive property, Simmons should also be compared to Johnson. Perhaps that’s a more accurate comparison for Simmons than James.
Starting early on in their careers, it is clear that one is a winner and that the other has a will to win.
Simmons, 20, is a winner. He won the high school national tournament during his junior year of high school at Montverde Academy over Oak Hill. Simmons won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award and the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award during his senior year
However, when he went to LSU he didn’t have the same success.
In his only collegiate season, Simmons was the star on a Tigers team that finished the season 19-14. During a college season that dealt with as much parity as it did, it was shocking that Simmons couldn’t lead LSU to the big dance.
James didn’t have the same opportunities that Simmons did in college. However, he won two Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) championships coming in his freshman and sophomore season.
Had James gone to college, he was good enough to lead a team to March Madness all by himself. This is evident by becoming the first sophomore to win Ohio’s Mr. Basketball Award, the best player in Ohio, and be named to the USA Today’s All-American First Team. He would win both of these awards in all of his final three high school seasons.
He was also the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award winner as a junior, the first to do so. He won the prestigious award two years in a row, to go along with the previously mentioned awards.
Moving along from their amateur careers, James and Simmons are similar in ability, but the talent level is nowhere near the same.
Josh Wilson, Editor of the The Sixer Sense, provides a breakdown of Simmons’ physique. His description of a point forward is what is most striking. Wilson breaks down the “point” part of the position by saying point guards are the “most agile, nimble players on the floor.”
Simmons is quicker than LeBron, naturally. Simmons is 6-foot-10 and weighs 240 pounds, but LeBron has the edge in strength, standing 6-foot-8 and weighing 250 pounds.
Simmons uses his quickness to maneuver around defenses to either set-up his teammates or himself for good looks. His passing ability is that of Steve Nash or a more modern point guard like Ricky Rubio.
Simmons uses his court vision to make flashy passes like what he showcased during the NBA’s Summer League.
James uses a different attack plan to set up himself and his teammates. He uses his strength and physical style of play to go downhill towards the rim to attack defenses. While driving towards the lane, he will often kick out to open shooters for catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Their attack styles are different, but they do have some similarities to their games on offense.
Both Simmons and James excel in post-up opportunities. They can take their opponents in one-on-one situations and isolate them in the post.
Simmons is more skilled as a back-to-the-basket operator and will use his positioning and length to get good looks around the rim. James will either power his way in tight to get around the rim against smaller defenders, or hit a turn around jumper over taller defenders.
Simmons must develop some sort of jump shot to be fully equipped offensively in the NBA. If there were any questions about his game, it was surrounding perimeter play and the ability to hit a jump shot. He went 1-for-3 from three-point range in college, which is around 21 feet from the basket.
That creates a big question mark in his game, especially considering the NBA three-point lane ranges from 22 feet to almost 24 feet.
On a 76ers team that features three talented big men in Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, though Embiid hasn’t played a NBA game in the two years since he was drafted, teams can just pack the paint against the Sixers due to their lack of three-point shooters.
Meanwhile James has never been afraid of the three-point shot. He took 217 three-pointers during his rookie season, the second fewest of his career, and hit a career-worst 29.0 percent.
He is a career 34.0 percent three-point shooter, but he is coming off of his worst three-point shooting season since his rookie year, hitting 30.9 percent.
This leads to the league’s best player hitting the gym to improve a weakness, his jump shot. Similarly to James improving his jump shot, Simmons must also be willing to work on developing one in order to become a complete offensive package.
Offensively, there are plenty of comparisons between the two. The defensive end proves to be a completely different story.
Simmons has had questions on the defensive end since early on in his freshman season at LSU, as ESPN‘s Eamonn Brennan writes. He notes that Simmons struggles in pick-and-roll situations with a commitment of either staying with his man, or stopping the ball-handler when he switches.
Rush The Court puts a visual to Simmons’ defensive deficiencies against Houston. He doesn’t get back on defense in transition and watches the offensive player drive straight at him instead of helping protect the rim.
Draft Experss‘ Jonathan Givony declares that Simmons’ “red flags” were obvious in his time at LSU. He notably writes that Simmons is lazy and showed less and less effort on the defensive end as the Tigers got closer to March and the games gained more importance.
There are positives to his defensive game. Simmons shows the ability to jump into passing lanes to get steals and turn them into transition points. He also used his great length to block shots and pull down rebounds on the defensive end.
James, on the other hand, has been known to be a good defender. In a long, 82-game season he may not always give his best effort for 48 minutes per game, but he steps it up during crunch time. He averages 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per game over the course of his 13-year career.
When it comes to leadership, Simmons has yet to prove to be a leader. His laziness and lack of effort on the defensive end doesn’t help his case. He has a calm demeanor that makes it difficult for him to be a vocal leader.
More from King James Gospel
There situations are slightly different, entering the NBA. James wasn’t required to go to college, while Simmons was. James was the most hyped athlete coming into the NBA, and Simmons is only drawing comparisons to the most hyped athlete entering the NBA.
It’s unfair to Simmons to slap the expectations of comparing him to LeBron James, who is truly a generational talent. The comparison from when they were both entering the NBA proves that James was strides better than Simmons.
Down the line, we may be able to compare the two. Using film to break down one another’s techniques, gauging how each player’s teams progressed as their career progressed and different accolades allow for all of this to be possible when Simmons is at the end of his rookie contract.
Until then, please let the comparisons between Ben Simmons and LeBron James stop. While certain aspects of their games are similar, they are on two different levels.