Jonathon Simmons Is the Key for the Spurs to Beat the Rockets

Simmons' impact on the Spurs-Rockets series is hard to overstate. How good has he been?

The NBA Playoffs have been rather dull. We can be honest there.

Even the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs series has had some duds. That wasn't the case in Game 5, of course, which ended in pretty dramatic fashion.

Manu Ginobili turned back the clock. Patty Mills played huge minutes in the absence of Tony Parker. Kawhi Leonard tried to play through an ankle injury. The Spurs were the Spurs, doing whatever it took to grind out a win.

But perhaps the Spurs player with the largest impact on this series has been Jonathon Simmons, a little-known small forward out of Houston with just 10 starts to his name.

Simmons' Impact

With Simmons on the court in this series (110 minutes), the Spurs are a plus-15 in terms of point differential, according to Only Ginobili (plus-15) and David Lee (plus-10) have also generated positive, double-digit point differentials in this series for the Spurs.

Similarly, the Spurs are a minus-24 with Simmons off the court in this series, tied with Ginobili for the biggest off-court impact by point differential.

Adjusting to a per-100-possession basis, the Spurs own an offensive rating of 111.0 with Simmons on the court. Among the 11 Spurs with at least 40 minutes in the series, only Parker (114.4) and Lee (111.9) have led to better offensive efficiency.

The Spurs also boast a defensive rating of 102.6 with Simmons on the court in the series, third-best of any player on the team.

That results in a net rating of 8.4 with Simmons on the court, the best mark of any Spur in the series. Only Ginobili (6.7), Parker (6.0), and Lee (4.8) are better than 2.4 in terms of net rating impact.

And when Simmons moves to the bench, the Spurs have been outscored 104.7 to 114.9 per 100 possessions, generating a net rating of -10.2. That's actually just a tad larger than Leonard's mark (a 99.2 offensive rating, a 109.3 defensive rating, and a -10.1 net rating).

Put another way, the Spurs have suffered more when Simmons has been on the bench than any other player in the series.

In sum, when factoring in the on-court boost and off-court decline the Spurs have experienced with Simmons, Simmons has been the most impactful player for the Spurs.

Player Min
ORtg DRtg Net Min
ORtg DRtg Net Diff
Jonathon Simmons 110 111.0 102.6 8.4 135 104.7 114.9 -10.2 18.6
Manu Ginobili 94 107.7 100.9 6.7 151 107.4 114.8 -7.4 14.1
Kawhi Leonard 179 110.7 109.4 1.2 66 99.2 109.3 -10.1 11.3
David Lee84 111.9 107.1 4.8 161 105.1 110.6 -5.6 10.4
Tony Parker49 114.4 108.4 6.0 196 105.8 109.6 -3.8 9.8
Dejounte Murray48 103.1 100.7 2.4 197 108.5 111.5 -3.0 5.4
Danny Green155 108.7 112.3 -3.6 90 105.6 104.7 0.9 -4.5
Pau Gasol121 109.4 114.3 -4.9 124 105.7 104.8 0.9 -5.8
Kyle Anderson41 107.7 118.7 -11.0 204 107.4 107.4 0.0 -11.0
Patty Mills138 102.9 114.2 -11.3 107 113.8 103.2 10.6 -21.9
LaMarcus Aldridge160 100.0 109.5 -9.5 85 122.2 109.3 12.9 -22.4

The Spurs, despite having a negative net rating in the series, are up 3-2, and without Simmons' impact, including two steals from James Harden in overtime in Game 5, it's hard to see how they would be ahead.

That's before even delving into how much LaMarcus Aldridge has struggled in significant minutes: the Spurs are being outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the court but are outscoring the Rockets by 12.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench.

In typical Spurs fashion, they just keep going, thanks in large part to Simmons' performance.

According to our algorithm, San Antonio now has an 81.24% chance to move on and face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.