Philly Front Office

The Jimmy Butler Effect: Ben Simmons

Welcome to the first part of our series on The Jimmy Butler Effect. The general consensus on Ben Simmons this year: less aggressive than last year but has been excellent on defense. When Ben is passive on offense, he is a significantly less impactful player on the court. Today, we look at the Butler trade and how it has impacted Ben Simmons this season. In this report, we will also take a look at Ben’s performance and how it compares to his rookie season. Here are the numbers. Enjoy!

OFFENSE

There is a myth that Ben Simmons is not as active on offense this season compared to his rookie season. Let’s take a look at the trends.

From the eye test, it has seemed that Ben Simmons has been more aggressive on offense as of late. The blue line in the middle of the graph indicates Jimmy Butler’s first game with the Sixers. As seen above, Ben Simmons’ free throw attempts and field goal attempts are a slightly increasing trend. 

Ben’s offensive rating (blue line) has essentially stayed the same this season. Since the Jimmy Butler trade, Ben’s offensive rating has not changed. However, there is significantly less variability in the data shown above since the trade. Less variability means more consistency and efficiency from Ben Simmons on offense.

The graph above indicates a steady increasing trend in true shooting percentage, which calculates a players shooting (field goal attempts, free throw attempts, 3 point attempts). This is a great sign for Ben, and it is evidence of a more aggressive Ben Simmons this season. 

The best indicator of Ben’s level of aggressiveness on offense is his rate at getting to the free throw line. Ben Simmons’ free throw rate, which is the ratio of foul shots to field goal attempts, is on a slightly increasing trend this season. It has continued to slowly climb since the Jimmy Butler trade.

Assessment & Comparison

Season FGA FTA TS% FTr Off Rating
2017/18 Season 12.3 4.2 55.7% 0.342 111
2018-Pre Jimmy 10.07 4.5 59.5% 0.48 117.07
2018- Post Jimmy 10.7 5.9 66.3% 0.61 119.20

The chart shows that Ben Simmons is shooting less field goal attempts per game than last year. You would expect Ben’s FGAs to go down after acquiring Jimmy Butler. In contrast, it’s actually increased. Conversely, Ben is averaging his highest free throw attempts, total shooting percentage, and offensive rating since the acquisition of Jimmy Butler.

While Ben may be shooting less than last year, he’s been more efficient. The Jimmy Butler trade has certainly had a positive effect on Ben Simmons being more efficient in the offense and getting more opportunities at the free throw line. If Ben is able to maintain his post-Jimmy Butler trade true shooting percentage (66.3%), he’ll be in the top 20 in the NBA in regards to TS%. Similarly, if Ben is able to maintain his post-Butler trade offense rating (119.20), he’d be near the top 20 in the NBA. As a Sixers fan, this sharp increase in FTr and TS% is very good reason for optimism moving forward. Perhaps this should be more appropriately titled The Kendall Jenner Effect?

I believe the general consensus for Ben this year has been that he is giving up the rock at a higher rate this season. What do Ben’s turnover numbers look like? As seen above, Ben’s turnover per game rate has been very slightly increasing this season. No real changes in turnovers for Ben Simmons since the Jimmy Butler trade.

How do Ben’s turnover percentages compare to his assists? Ben’s assist percentage has displayed a slightly decreasing trend overall, but a slightly increasing trend can be seen since the Jimmy Butler trade. Before the Jimmy Butler trade, this can be attributed to increasingly implementing Markelle into the offense, which has decreased Ben’s usage rate. Ben’s turnover percentage has been slightly increasing this season, before and after the Jimmy Butler trade. This is easily explainable as the Sixers have had multiple changes with the starting lineup this season. 

Assessment and Comparison

Season AST% TOPG TO% USG%
2017/18 Season 37.4% 3.4 19.5% 22.3%
2018-Pre Jimmy 40.7% 3.5 19.5% 21.36%
2018- Post Jimmy 37.70% 3.3 19.91% 20.94%

No real change with Ben Simmons’ assist percentage this year, post Jimmy Butler acquisition and compared to his rookie season. They are all hovering between 38 and 40 percent. Similarly, Ben’s turnovers have maintained with no real changes. What has decreased has been Ben’s usage percentage, which is currently at his lowest of his Sixers career since the Jimmy Butler trade. With Markelle Fultz off the team, I expect Ben’s usage rate to climb back up to around 22 percent within the next month. Overall, Ben is still among the leaders in assist and turnovers in the NBA. Currently, Ben has the 8th most turnovers in the league, whereas he finished 4th most during his rookie season. Similarly, Ben had the 3rd most assists in the NBA last season, while he is currently 4th.

DEFENSE

Ben Simmons is an amazing defender. However, it’s been decreasing as of late. Fingers crossed, the decision to wear head bands alongside Jimmy Butler will alter some of the below trends. Note: a lot of these numbers are attributed to overall team defense and should be treated as so.  

Ben Simmons’ steal percentages have maintained this season with no real changes before and after the Jimmy Butler trade. Meanwhile, a slightly decreasing trend can be seen in regards to Ben Simmons’ block percentage.

Ben Simmons’ defensive rating has maintained all year with no real changes before or after the Jimmy Butler trade.

Assessment and Comparison

Season STL% BLK% Defense Rating
2017/18 Season 2.5% 2.1% 102
2018-Pre Jimmy 1.99% 1.63% 104.86
2018- Post Jimmy 1.79% 1.47% 106.80

As you can see above, the majority of Ben’s defensive numbers are down. During his rookie season, Ben Simmons was a nightmare in the passing lanes, finishing 5th in the NBA in steals. This has considerably dropped this season as Ben is currently tied for 22nd in the NBA in total steals. Last season, Ben Simmons had the 9th best defensive rating in the NBA. This year, Ben is not in the top 20 in defense. Jimmy Butler currently leads the NBA in steals per game, so it’s clear why Brett Brown wants to form a defensive identity between Jimmy and Ben via matching headbands. Hopefully Ben’s new head gear awakens his defensive beast within.

Ben Simmons’ rebounding numbers continue to show why he is such a unique player. As seen above, Ben’s offensive, defensive, and total rebounding percentages are on a maintaining trend. 

Assessment and Comparison

Season OREB% DREB% TREB%
2017/18 Season 5.9% 19.5% 13%
2018-Pre Jimmy 7.34% 20.23% 14.28%
2018- Post Jimmy 4.96% 20.44% 13.09%

There is really nothing to add here beyond the fact that Ben Simmons continues to be dominant on the glass. Simmons is currently tied for 27th in the NBA in rebounds per game this season. Not shocking, but the only guard in front of Ben in regards to rebounding continues to be Russell Westbrook. However, he does better than Westbrook on the offensive glass.  

ANALYSIS SUMMARY

While it’s only been nine games, the Jimmy Butler trade has had an overall positive impact on Ben Simmons so far. Many of Ben’s offensive numbers have improved since his rookie year and have only continued or even further increased since the acquisition of Jimmy Butler. Defensively, Brett is attempting to form a defensive bond between Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. There is no doubt that these two defensive savants will be able to figure it out. Along with Joel, I have no problem predicting that Ben and Jimmy will very shortly become a terror in the passing lanes.  

Thanks again for reading! 

mrcrockpot

"Some would have us go out and buy apples. But we want to build the whole orchard, and you don't get to the moon by climbing a tree."
-Sam Hinkie

Jonah Bolden commented on my first game recap for SFO.