How Does Ben Simmons Measure Up To Previous NBA Rookie Greats?

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Ben Simmons has gotten off to a spectacular start to his career. Spectacular enough, in fact, that he’s putting himself in some pretty elite company when you compare what he’s doing to what other NBA rookies have done before.

Before moving on, I want to clarify what it means to compare things. Think of the phrase “that’s comparing apples and oranges.” And that’s because apples and oranges are essentially different things, but they are both round, delicious, sugary fruits. There are ways they compare to one another; you just compare them with one another. The point of this article does not compare Simmons with any of the great players he’s putting himself on the same page with; it’s merely to demonstrate the similarities between his rookie seasons and theirs.

That’s significant because the list of names is pretty much elite. He’s not necessarily going to be a Hall of Famer, but he sure looks like a round, delicious, sugary fruit based on the early returns. So to speak

Let’s start with his overall numbers. He’s averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. Here are the players who have averaged 15/7/7 in their first years, per Basketball-Reference.com:

15 Points, 7 Rebounds, and 7 Assists in Rookie Season
Crit Crit Crit
Rk Player Season Age Tm Lg PTS AST TRB
1 Oscar Robertson 1960-61 22 CIN NBA 30.5 9.7 10.1
2 Magic Johnson 1979-80 20 LAL NBA 18.0 7.3 7.7
3 Ben Simmons 2017-18 21 PHI NBA 18.1 7.4 9.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/29/2017.

Well now, that’s a compelling pair of names. Granted, Robertson’s numbers were significantly better overall, but remember, we’re looking at comparing “to,” not “with,” here.

Of course, that’s just random numbers, right? You could slap up a random assortment of stats and get a lot of wild lists. So what about advanced stats? Simmons is one of just 37 rookies to post a Player Efficiency Rating over 20, which is impressive, but not jaw-dropping. PER though, doesn’t really adequately demonstrate Simmons’ value, because it tends to undervalue assists.

When you look at players whose PER is over 20 based on how many points per game they produce (either through scoring or passing), Simmons is once again there with the all-time greats. Here are the 14 rookies who generated 30 points per game via passing or scoring while posting a PER above 20: