Ben Simmons vs The World Part 2: Joel Embiid

stephendataviz

Enjoy the ride as Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons enter their primes | RSN

In our newest series Ben Simmons vs The World – we will be using NBA 2K ratings, highlights from Twitter, & my opinion to see where Ben Simmons ranks among his piers. Check out part 1 (Ben vs Brandon Ingram) here.

For part 2 we have a very special all 76er comparison. We will be comparing Ben Simmons vs Joel Embiid to finally see who is truly the alpha of Philly sports. We know both players are All-Star caliber & could be among the best in the game – but who is truly superior? Let’s take a look.

Shooting: Obviously shooting is not Ben Simmons strong point – I don’t need to tell you this, but low key Joel Embiid is not a great shooter either. To tell the truth – Ben Simmons was a better shooter than Joel Embiid last year. Just take a look at the 2 splits below, if the name wasn’t there you would assume the 2 were switched.

Embiid (.477 FG | .517 2P | .331 3P | .512 eFG | TS% .591 | -26.2 FG add | 51.1 TS add)

Simmons (.580 FG | .583 2P | .286 3P | .581 eFG | TS% .602 | 67.7 FG add | 58.2 TS add)

In case you were wondering here is the definitions for FG add & TS add from basketball-reference.com

Ben Simmons was superior in all shooting categories last season & his biggest weakness is actually giving him an advantage over Embiid. He knows he cant shoot so he doesn’t, Embiid hoists shots like the Jersey Shore cast in their prime which deflates his value. Just take a look at FG add for Embiid (-26.2) compared to Simmons (67.7) – that is an outrageous discrepancy especially for a player like Embiid who should be mopping up these scrubs inside.

Advantage Simmons: Shockingly I’m taking Simmons over Embiid for this category.

Inside Scoring: This is a very close category (702 to 649) & the reason the Sixers struggle so much. Both players are awesome at inside scoring and operating from the block in that it causes spatial problems that leads to bad possessions for the Sixers. It’s tough for a team to operate with 2 players that would prefer to score in the paint rather than the 3 point line. It will be up to Glen (formerly known as Doc) Rivers to figure out the best way to utilize these 2 unique talents. Let’s take a little closer look at this category to see if we can decide which player should truly have the advantage.

The chart above shows that Ben Simmons shoots 71.9% on shots from 0-3 feet & Embiid shoots 72.5% on these same shots. Basically a push – until you take a look at the next graph and see that Simmons actually shoots 38.3% more shots from this distance than Embiid. A quick math check shows that 71.9% is high & if we can guarantee points on 71.9% of the time we should do that. Simmons is punishing teams inside while Embiid is only shooting 25.5% of his shots from this distance. Embiid needs to shoot closer to the basket – again this will be up to Glen to see how he balances these 2 inside.

The next 2 graphs are interesting as well – it shows that when Ben steps back just to 3-10 feet, his numbers plummet. Simmons only shoots 36.5% from this distance compared to 46.8% by Embiid. Simmons has to improve on this if he is going to be a legit offensive threat. In my opinion this is the biggest part of Simmons game that he needs to improve not his 3 pointer – this number should be close to 60% rather than sub 40%. If he can be a force from 3-10 feet – Simmons will take off to MVP levels.

Advantage Embiid: Although it is close I am giving Embiid the advantage here. His size puts him over the top for me.

Defense: It’s tough to choose who the superior defender is between Simmons & Embiid because they normally guard totally different players. Simmons checks the guards and large wings, while Embiid covers the big man inside. The reason I am giving the advantage to Simmons over Embiid is because he can truly guard all 5 positions. This is not hyperbole – Simmons is so big, strong, & savvy that he is able to hang with the modern center with no issues.

On the other side of the coin Embiid can really only guard bigs inside. Obviously his ability to guard the paint is a game changer, which is why this is one of the closest categories (Simmons 666 to Embiid 615).

Advantage Simmons: I am giving the advantage to Simmons over Embiid because in today’s modern game Simmons is the more versatile & valuable defender.

Rebounding: Very close category. This is a push to me because since both players are plus rebounders for their position.

Advantage: Push

Passing: Ben Simmons leads this category by 108 points & in my opinion is not high enough. Simmons is one of the best passers in the game today, & has the ability to go down as one of the greats with JKidd, Magic, & Nash if he can continue on his trajectory.

I took a quick look at both players AST% (Simmons 33.8 & Embiid 16.9%) – this shows the % of teammates FGs that this player assisted on while on the floor. For context Simmons is 19th – just under Dame Lillard, Giannis, CP3, Brogden, & just above Draymond Green. Embiid is 76th – below other big men such as Al Horford, Nikola Vucevic, Domantis Sabonis, KAT, Bam, & above AD.

Advantage Simmons: Simmons is just a freak of nature when it comes to passing so he is the obvious choice here.

Intangibles: This is by far the closest category with only 25 points separating these 2 (Simmons 450 to Embiid 425). If we are talking on the court, both players are special and have some of the most impressive set of intangible skills a player can possess. If we are talking about off the court – both have huge question marks. Embiid can’t stay off the Shirley Temples and Simmons cant stay off the Kardashians – addiction is tough.

Advantage Simmons: I am going to give the advantage to Simmons. The reason is because I don’t think Embiid try’s his hardest all the time & that rubs off on his teammates. If we could guarantee a 100% committed Embiiid every game – I would take Embiid. Since that ain’t happening any time soon – I will take Simmons for this category.

Athleticism: Simmons is the better athlete (960 to 818), but Embiid is no slouch either. If we were going pound for pound I would give the advantage to Embiid, he has the rare ability to move like a guard but in a 7 foot body. The only problem is Simmons is by far the better athlete and only slightly smaller than Embiid. Simmons may be one of the most athletic dudes in the NBA – without researching I would say confidently top 10. When Simmons puts it into high gear, its going to be a scary place for the NBA. Combining his size with his athleticism is a rare treat us NBA fans do not get to see often.

Advantage: Simmons

Conclusion: The 76ers are coming up on a very important season – it’s time for this group to take that next step and win a championship or restart and go a different direction. Unfortunately I do not see Glen bringing this team together this year and pulling out the championship. Rather, I foresee an offseason full of moves & controversy with these 2 players front and center.

If I were making decisions in Philly I would choose Ben to lead the team and rebuild around his skill set. I think we have seen enough from Joel Embiid to know what he is, which isn’t a bad thing, but he is a player that can be dominant during stretches but also disappears when it matters. Its tough to fully count on a 7 footer since it takes the whole team to get him the ball, rather than a guard who can operate with the ball the whole time. Especially the way the NBA is going – the 7 foot center is no longer the most important player on your team. Not to mention Embiid has battled a litany of injuries & if we look back in the history of the NBA – 7 footers don’t normally get healthier with age.

I think it’s very clear these 2 players do not work together & in my opinion Simmons is the man to lead the Sixers back to prominence, not Embiid. Simmons needs to improve his mid range game & add some type of 3 point shot, but his other strengths still make him a remarkable player even with these shortcomings.

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