Grabbing a defensive rebound after his rare combination of size, strength and agility left the offense with an empty possession, he streaks down the court with shocking speed and ballhandling dexterity for his height, finishing the fastbreak with a thunderous slam dunk. In the modern NBA, there are a handful of player capable of making one part or another of this play on a consistent basis, but aside from LeBron, who’s been doing it for so long that it seems rote, the two who first spring to mind as completing the play from beginning to end are Giannis Antentokuompo and Ben Simmons.
Simmons has been linked in this way to Antentokuompo since the very beginning of his career, for better or worse. On the one hand, being compared to a player whose trophy case is littered with two NBA MVP, three All-NBA First Team nods, a DPOY, and a Finals MVP must mean you’re doing SOMETHING right; on the other, part of the reason for the comparison is the key weakness the two share: shooting the basketball.
Simmons is infamously averse to the three point shot, having attempted only 34 total in his four year career, most of which were buzzer-beating heaves; he’s made just five. For many, this small sample is something to dream on: if only he would commit to attempting more, surely he’d make enough to justify a bit of crucial stretch from the opposing defense! History shows this is not true, as Giannis, whose high water mark in the last five season is a paltry 30.7%, is still consistently dared to take wide-open threes.
In fact, in this sense Giannis might well take a piece of Simmons’ game, turning those inefficient possessions into… basically anything else.
While that’s one of the few pieces of Simmons’s game Giannis might consider stealing for himself, Giannis’s game may very well offer a roadmap Simmons can follow to join the Greek Freak in the NBA’s upper echelon. Here are a few things Simmons can do that would help him follow in Giannis’s prodigious footsteps:
Grow An Inch And A Half
In 2019, the NBA had each team measure it’s players without shoes on, giving fans and media their best-ever picture of how these athletes literally measure up to one another. Simmons, listed now at 6'11", came in at 6'9.5; Giannis, also listed at 6'11", measured in at 6'11". Given that measurements have historically been conducted with shoes on for the purposes of day-to-day conversation, this makes Giannis a traditional 7-footer. Simmons might take being a traditional seven footer under consideration.
Grow Each Arm At Least An Inch And A Half
In 2013, an 18 year old Giannis’s wingspan was measured at 7'3". Given that he’s grown a couple inches since then, his wingspan has likely grown too, but even if it’s still “just” 7'3", it’s four inches longer than Simmons’s 6'11". It’s that wingspan, combined with the height and athleticism, that earned Antentokuompo the “Freak” moniker. If Simmons were to add two inches to each arm, that, coupled with the inch and a half of added height, could help him turn his one relative weakness on defense — rim protection — into a strength, and make him even more of a menace on the perimeter as well, potentially even DPOY-worthy. This might be a worthwhile thing to add to his arsenal.
Become More Athletic
Ben Simmons is a breathtaking athlete, a joy to watch in the open floor; it’s what makes him a worthy All-Star in the Eastern Conference despite his half-court struggles. Giannis, though, as a combination of height, length, strength, speed, and leaping, might be the single greatest pure athlete in basketball history. If Simmons were to level up and become the greatest pure athlete in basketball history, he might shoot, maybe, 78.8% from within five feet of the rim, tops in the league among anymore averaging more than five such attempts per game, on, like, 9.5 attempts per game, second most in the league behind only Zion Williamson. As opposed to a roughly-average 63% on 7 attempts per game (to his credit, a top-10 mark). Something he should definitely consider.
Get Much Better Over The Course Of Time
Since being selected 15th overall by the Bucks in 2013, Giannis has made incredible strides (pun intended). He came into the league a gangly 190 lb, fresh off the second division Greek pro circuit, and saw his scoring average jump six points per year every year for each of his first four seasons, after which it stagnated between 27–30 points per game. His rebounding numbers grews at a similar rate; despite the increased shooting volume, his he has become more efficient every year up to and including this last year. During that time, he’s also become a consistent All-Defense performer and a DPOY winner.
Simmons, on the other hand, has been pretty much the same player on offense since he entered the league. That player is good! He generates a lot of open looks for his teammates, especially on the fast break, which he often helps jump start with his legit first team All-Defense level play on that end. However, the stagnation and even regression of his scoring are not ideal, and his surliness when asked about the topic leave it open-ended regarding whether he cares to address that all-important skill.
So there you have it. If Simmons can only grow an inch and a half, while adding at least two inches of length to each arm, while becoming the best pure athlete in the history of the sport and retroactively significantly improving offensively every year, he might start being spoken of in the same breath as Giannis for reasons beyond his shooting struggles and unfulfilled potential.