Philadelphia 76ers: Why Ben Simmons is better than Russell Westbrook

Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In light of Woj’s recent report on Ben Simmons’ pending five-year, $170 million extension now seems like a better time than ever to reflect on just how valuable the Philadelphia 76ers’ All-Star is.

Many are hesitant to rank Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons amongst the NBA elite due to his lack of shooting prowess or other perceived deficiencies running an offense. It is a shame that this developing aspect of his game has overshadowed the many strides he made this year as a complete player. The Ben Simmons hate is exaggerated. He is 22. He is an NBA All-Star. And he is better than Russell Westbrook.

Since Russell Westbrook has been in the league, he has gone from the fourth overall pick, to an All-Star, to an NBA superstar. This opinion may strike many as ridiculous, but the stats back it up. Offensively, defensively, and, yes, in the playoffs Ben Simmons is better than Russell Westbrook.


Everyone knows the narrative: ‘Ben can’t shoot.’ ‘He is scared.’ ‘He will never be elite without a jump shot.’ Everyone has heard the narrative, and the narrative is wrong. I am not here to say that Ben is a shooter, but his decision not to shoot may not have such a negative effect on the team.

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Look at Westbrook. In the 2018-19 NBA season, Russell Westbrook shot 29 percent on his 5.6 three-point attempts per game. This lowered his field goal percentage on the season to an average 42.8 percent. Despite that number being okay his Effective Field Goal Percentage (a stat that shows a player’s field goal percentage taking the value of three pointers into account) was actually a point and a half lower than his field goal percentage on two-point tries.

This points to the fact that Russ may do more damage to his team by shooting threes than Ben does by not. Contrast Simmons’ 56.3 percent eFG (3.9 percent above the league average) and we see a player that is much more efficient with his shot decisions.

Moving on from shooting, advanced numbers back Simmons up as well. On a comparable amount of touches Russ averages a whole turnover more per game. In addition to this, his Offensive Rating (a stat that shows the number of points produced with that player on the court per 100 possessions) is 8.5 points lower than his Philly counterpart. Ben may not be a better offensive player than Russ outright, but he is certainly more efficient and has a very positive effect on his team.


Ben Simmons is an incredible athlete. Standing at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot wingspan and weighing 230 pounds, he does not look like your average point guard. After taking a season to adjust to the speed of the NBA, Simmons put these unique gifts to use.

His blend of size and quickness lends itself beautifully to the defensive end, helping him switch on and off every position effortlessly. Russ is no slouch on the defensive end himself, but he has nowhere near the versatility of Simmons as he is over half a foot shorter. This height advantage, combined with his impressive quickness, translates excellently when Simmons is on-ball as he is able to smother opposing players to the tune of 6.6 contested shots per game. This number nearly two higher than the OKC star.

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Both of these All-Stars excel in this part of the game due in large part to their speed and explosiveness… Just ask Jared Dudley. That being said, not only does Simmons shoot 10 percent higher from the field in transition, but he also averages more Points Per Possession in his opportunities. This statistic should be the ultimate test of who is truly more effective in this phase of the game, and Ben has proven to be the more productive of the two.


One of the largest contributors to the “Ben Simmons is overrated” narrative is his perceived playoffs struggles. This stems mainly from the infamous one-point game against the Celtics in his rookie season.

Those who see his decreased stats in the postseason this year as reason to condemn him simply are not looking hard enough. In the Sixers’ first round series vs. the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons was unleashed on the defensive end. As the primary defender on All-Star D’Angelo Russell he held Russell to 35.9 percent from the field, 7.5 percentage points lower than his season average.

Moving on to the Raptors series, Simmons’ effort defending Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard played a huge role in the Sixers pushing the future NBA champions to their toughest challenge of the postseason. A fun stat to show how exceptional he was defensively in the playoffs was his NBA Playoffs-leading 3.9 deflections (more than double Westbrook’s effort).

In Westbrook’s five postseason games this year his Box Plus/Minus (a stat used to show the value of a player to his team) was a meager 1.9. This does not hold a candle to Ben’s BPM of 5.5. A better comparison for him in this category would be former back to back MVP Steph Curry who sported a BPM of 5.4 in these playoffs.

Saying Ben Simmons is better than Russell Westbrook is no knock on the former MVP. In fact, Simmons matches up fairly well with other NBA superstars as well. The truth is that No. 25 is a player on the rise and Philly fans should be grateful for his new extension. With him locked up for an extra five, the Sixers will be a force to be reckoned with in the league for years to come.

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