NBA Wednesday: Ben Simmons vs. Lonzo Ball

NBA Wednesday: Ben Simmons vs. Lonzo Ball article feature image

The first installment of Ben Simmons vs. Lonzo Ball takes place tonight at the Staples Center and will no doubt spark plenty of debate. In addition to the game, we’re going to mark the occasion by taking a look at the Rookie of the Year odds, which might not be as straightforward as first thought.


76ers (7-6) @ Lakers (6-8)

In the first of many battles throughout their careers, Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball go head to head tonight at the Staples Center.

The 76ers enter as favorites, having beaten the Clippers in the same venue on Monday night. Public money (72 percent) is siding with the Sixers, but may just be a result of punters getting a little excited about a close win over an injury-plagued Clippers team featuring Blake Griffin having an off night.

Depending on how you look at it, the fact the young Sixers have been in Los Angeles since Sunday could either be considered a positive or a negative.

Did they use the time without travel to rest, or did they take the chance to live the LA lifestyle for a few nights and not rest up at all?

Either way, the Lakers as a home dog is appealing. They’ve won their last three at home straight up and against the spread, including two straight up wins as the underdog against the Grizzlies and Pistons.

Returning home on Monday after a week on the road, the Lakers tip off a four-game homestand tonight with 4-0 undoubtedly the goal. Playing the Sixers, Suns, Nuggets, and Bulls, is a good opportunity for the Lakers to carry on their decent stretch playing at home and see their record tick over .500.

Their December schedule is horrific, so they’ll be putting pressure on themselves to accumulate wins early.

The Lakers’ 3-point shooting has been the predominant reason for wins and losses recently. They are 30th in 3-point percentage at 30.1 percent for the season but have shown signs of improvement – at least at home. Throughout the recent three-game losing streak, they shot 20.3 percent from beyond the arc. Most importantly, though, over the course of their three-game winning streak at home, they are shooting 40.3 percent.

With the Sixers allowing the fourth-most 3-point attempts per game in the league (32.8), the Lakers are primed to cover, and possibly win this game, through a fusillade of 3-pointers.

Pick: Lakers +3

Rookie of the Year odds

The highlight of the day is Simmons vs. Lonzo, so we will take this opportunity to look at the Rookie of the Year futures market.

In August, William Hill opened with Ball as the favorite to win the ROY at +180, only for the Westgate SuperBook to send Simmons out as favorite the following day at +250.

Fast forward a few months and at least 13 games each, and William Hill is now offering -500 for Simmons to win the award with Ball, still on the second line of betting, at +450.

William Hill’s odds suggest Simmons has an 83 percent chance at winning the award – and for good reason.

He’s been outstanding and is setting records with performances even his most vocal admirers didn’t see coming.

His decision-making and the time he has with the ball is veteran-esque, while his athleticism at 21 years old is naturally otherworldly. In an age where shooting is a necessity, Simmons is getting away with taking 41.3 percent of his shots inside three feet, connecting on 70.5 percent of them. He’s 0-7 from beyond the arc, but that doesn’t matter. He does everything else at an all-star level, with his value above replacement already hovering around the likes of Blake Griffin, Rudy Gobert and Russell Westbrook.

Simmons winning the award seems clear cut, but Ball is producing some decent numbers, albeit in the Australian’s shadow.

The issue for Ball is his shooting. At just 31.3 percent from the field, he’s only scoring 9.5 points per game. It’s no secret his shot isn’t aesthetically pleasing, and there’s plenty to suggest it’s the root of all his problems. Nevertheless, the mechanics of it won’t be changing this season.

There is hope for improvement, though. Pete Zayas (@LakerFilmRoom) at Forum Blue and Gold produces the best Lakers-related content available and identifies how decision-making and experience will increase his field goal percentage and assist rate.

If what Zayas says comes to fruition and Ball gets closer to Simmons’ 17.8 points on 49.7 percent shooting, this ROY race could get a lot closer toward the end of the season.

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