The Philadelphia 76ers may be on the verge of entering a new era in the Orlando restart bubble. They’ve been practicing with Ben Simmons at the four.
The Philadelphia 76ers have long been a talented team that simply doesn’t quite fit together. Since finding Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in the lottery thanks to Sam Hinkie’s Process, they’ve been a talented pair but the pieces around them and the way they’re used simply hasn’t worked to its best abilities.
Simmons has essentially played the role of the NBA’s biggest point guard at 6’10”, a modern-day positional Magic Johnson from a body-type standpoint. He’s a reluctant shooter, and poor when he puts the ball up, scoring just .556 points per possession when he takes jump shots in 18 attempts this season.
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However, he’s a dynamic playmaker, so keeping the ball in his hands has been a priority for Sixers head coach Brett Brown.
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid also combine forces as two of the league’s best defenders, so even though their offense is unimpressive, the Philadelphia 76ers defense is among the best in the NBA when the team is fully engaged.
In order to find a way to optimize the Sixers rotation, Brown is looking at options in the practice and prep time afforded him before the NBA’s Disney-based restart takes place. In Monday’s Zoom press conference, he announced that Simmons has been playing the four in practice, with Shake Milton playing point guard.
It’s going to be relatively uncharted territory if this actually happens in-game. The trio of Milton, Simmons and Embiid has played just 250 possessions together, but of course the configuration was different when they did with Simmons running the point.
If this group does start together as a unit, the most likely configuration will be Milton at the one, Josh Richardson at the two, Tobias Harris at the three, Simmons of course at the four and Embiid at the five.
This will mean Al Horford will go to the bench, and that’s probably the best spot for him anyway. Per NBA Wowy, when the trio of Horford, Simmons and Embiid plays together the offense scores a woeful 100.8 points per 100 possessions. When Simmons and Embiid play without Horford, the offense skyrockets to 115.8 points per 100 possessions.
Of course, there’s a defensive tradeoff. This trio is dynamite on defense, giving up just 101.8 points per 100, and the duo of Simmons and Embiid alone yields 111.9 points. Still, the concern over not being able to score is critical, defense notwithstanding, and this move to modify the starting lineup could be just what’s needed in order to boost their scoring output.
The Philadelphia 76ers have been a confounding team throughout the regular season, and plenty of what they’ve tried simply hasn’t worked. With Ben Simmons back and healthy and Shake Milton having closed the pre-hiatus portion of the season on a hot streak, the time is right for them to try changing everything they’ve done for the last few seasons when it comes to Simmons and Embiid.