NBA King of the Hill Tournament: Ben Simmons’ Game Is Perfect for 1-on-1
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Ben Simmons
You may have heard that the Action Network is on a quest to find the top 1-on-1 player in the NBA. So far our basketball experts — Matt Moore, Rob Perez, Justin Phan and Bryan Mears — have each ranked their 64-best individual hoopers (For more on their rankings and analysis, click here). On Thursday, we’ll unveil the official bracket, and on Saturday, we’ll start playing out the tournament on Twitter via NBA2K for the whole world to see.
One player who Rob is most passionate about succeeding in this 1-on-1 format: 3-point deficient point-forward Ben Simmons, who was No. 9 in his top 64 rankings. He makes his case for Simmons below.
I have been tasked with further explaining having Ben Simmons ranked as the ninth-best one-on-one player in the NBA, and I’m more than happy to preach a sermon in the name of Pointzilla.
First and foremost, the format of one-on-one basketball needs to be reiterated: this is not NBA basketball in which five players on each team traverse a 94-by-50 foot wooden floor. This is a different sport. This is half court basketball with only two humans occupying all of that space.
With that said, if your life was on the line, how many NBA players would you nominate as your champion to stop Simmons from getting to the rim? Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis (MAYBE P.J. Tucker) and that’s it, right?
Simmons is a perfect 6-foot-10, 230-pound athletic specimen with better handles, more speed, more physicality, and the ability to finish at the rim better than your team’s point guard.
You don’t even need to iterate your counter-point, it’s already been heard.
“He can’t shoot.”
Nobody is disputing that, yet, he doesn’t need to. When somebody can’t shoot, the first thing you do is back up off of them and give them an open look — daring them to prove you wrong. For every mortal human being who falls into this category, this strategy works, but not for Simmons.
All creating open space for Simmons does is allow him to begin the ignition sequence in which he explodes through the paint, like the Fast & Furious NOS cannons are strapped to his quadriceps, and detonates at the rim.
Any opportunity for him to run downhill is game over, and while backing up would make most defenders “feel safe” — it is just expediting their doom. NBA teams try this against him when there are four other players on the court to help the on-ball defender and it still doesn’t work most of the time.
I would like to remind you this man is a point guard who has made 72.2% of his shot attempts, within three feet of the basket, throughout his career. For comparison, Shaquille O’Neal shot 74 from that distance.
Even more impressively, 58% of these shots are unassisted, which means he has a significant sample size to prove these opportunities are created by himself. Simmons is able to do this, against five defenders, without a jump shot.
Now imagine you’re out there by yourself against him.
You can’t, because if you tried this in reality you’d be dead.
There is no guarding this basketball titan in open space. The end.