Ben Simmons scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half of Sunday’s 103-95 home win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Nine of his first-half points came in the first quarter. It was an impressive outing for the reigning rookie of the year, but it wasn’t exactly out of character.
Simmons is not known as a bulk scorer, averaging just 11 shots this season, and pretty evenly splits his time between attacking and distributing. In quarters when Simmons takes fewer shots, there is usually an uptick in his assists, and when his assists are down, he clearly is attacking more. Either way, Simmons is aggressive as a passer and a scorer early in games.
While Simmons' efficiency Sunday was exceptional -- he finished 8-for-10 from the floor overall and 4-for-5 in the opening frame -- his assertiveness early is what should be expected at this point.
Simmons has taken 263 shots this season, 72 in the first quarter (27.4 percent). That’s a slightly higher percent compared with last season, when Simmons took 25.7 percent of his shots in the first quarter through November.
As the 2017-18 campaign wore on, Simmons became more aggressive in the opening period, finishing the season having taken 33.9 percent of his total shots in the first quarter.
Depending on the night and the result of a game, Simmons is often peppered with questions about why he is particularly aggressive to start games, but this is not a new trend, especially in the opening minutes. Simmons just got rolling a little more quickly than usual Sunday and credited his hot start with some off-court work that he’s been doing with his brother.
“I think just learning, watching a lot of film with my brother this year,” he said. “He’s been working with me a lot, and he’s actually helped me get a lot better defensively and offensively in my game.”
Simmons scored six of his nine first-quarter points in the first two minutes against Memphis, a quick start by any standard. But, when looking at Simmons' overall numbers, it’s usually the first six minutes when he takes the bulk of shots. Part of this is because of substitution patterns, and Simmons usually is not on the floor for the final three minutes of the opening period, but part of it is just Simmons' game.
Of his first-quarter shots this season, 66.1 percent have come in the first six minutes. While his offensive assertiveness has been noted, coach Brett Brown and the rest of the team have made a point to emphasize Simmons' defensive progression.
“When he’s being aggressive like that, not only on the offensive end but on the defensive end, he’s changing the game for us,” Jimmy Butler said after Sunday’s game.
Simmons has been aggressive in different ways this season, working more in the post. cutting off the ball, and playing through contact. His 3-for-8 performance from the foul line Sunday shows there is still plenty of work to be done in that area, but his overall effort in getting to the line is encouraging.