The Philadelphia 76ers have managed to maneuver their way out of a dark place but now comes the time to determine if it was all worth it. After countless seasons of adding draft picks and shedding salaries, the team is in position to make a run at a title. But in order to do so, all players and front office personnel must be on the same page. After two straight seasons of 50-win ball and second-round exits, it’s clear something is missing.
The answer to that could be a two-way SG, a better rebounding and defensive PF, but the truth is, they need a real PG.
The 76ers have relied on Ben Simmons for the past two seasons and while he made his first All-Star appearance in 2019, his game still has fans a bit bewildered. Simmons, for his career, has averaged 16.4 points, 7.9 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per while shooting .554 percent from the floor. Solid numbers across the board for a player in just his second season. But are we asking too much?
With those types of numbers, are the 76ers wise to keep a hold of Simmons or trade him this offseason?
This topic has been discussed at length since the Toronto Raptors knocked Simmons and the 76ers out of the playoffs. As good as Ben Simmons has been, the team needs more. One of the 76ers’ weakness was attributed to the limited offensive skills of Simmons.
Simmons could easily average a triple-double for a season but the teams’ success is still a car length away because Simmons refuses to shoot the ball from the perimeter. It may sound a bit unfair as you glance at his numbers but the fact still remains the team won’t win a title until they can find a player who can penetrate or destroy a defense from outside the paint.
How many times did Simmons decide to take Kyle Lowry off the dribble? Any opposing PG facing Simmons can relax off his dribble with no fear of him hoisting a shot. This is the defense teams have deployed over the last two years. To beat the 76ers, you must do so on the boards and stopping their fast break offense.
If Ben Simmons or one of his teammates can snatch a rebound and push the tempo, Simmons becomes one of the best PGs in the league. However, when setting up the offense from the halfcourt set, he becomes average at best. If a defense doesn’t respect your perimeter game, it easily becomes 4 on 5 in favor of the defense. This offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers must address their biggest issue.
Simmons is still on his rookie contract so moving him should not be hard salary cap wise. The issue will be what will they get in return. There aren’t too many young guards with his skills but there are a few who can step in and guide this offense. The other thing to remember is that while fans have called for a trade, it’s only logical to see why. If a PG is brought in, where does Simmons play? He can’t play SG or SF due to his shooting woes and he can’t play PF because the league is still in it’s “Stretch 4” phase. So where does he belong?
The 76ers have cap space to sign a max player, but by trading Simmons, this allows them more roster flexibility. For instance, a move could be made for them to acquire Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets along with Garry Harris and possibly a future second-round pick.
For the Sixers, it’s about the present but still preparing for the future. Some may believe that Simmons does not carry a high price tag. However, a ROY, All-Star, and an integral piece of a 50 win team, deserves his respect. He just won’t get it in Philly.
Ben Simmons is and will be a great player despite his shortcomings. But he does not fit the 76ers’ system. It’s not all on Brett Brown either. If a PG refuses to shoot, it limits the offense. If a PG with his size declines to take it to the rim every chance he gets, it’s a problem. During the regular season, it’s all stat-stuffing. Different teams every night with no real time to gameplan makes it easy to excel. But when the playoffs sets in and teams have time to devise a plan and this is what the Philadelphia 76ers are dealing with.
General Manager, Elton Brand traded draft picks with his eye on the top prize. The city is calling for the team to “run it back” but in order to do so, they must max out Jimmy Butler and hope that Tobias Harris takes a pay cut to stay. But why? Although they were a lucky Kawhi Leonard bounce away from the Conference Finals, they could easily find themselves in the same position again next ear.
If Ben Simmons declines to practice jump shots, then what? Regular season wins and stats mean nothing when a title is on the line. Against the Raptors in that Game 7, Leonard hit the game-winning shot but he also took 39 field goal attempts while Simmons attempted just five. That’s not what a player looking to win does for his team. This is what separates the great payers from the average ones. Where was Simmons’ desire to win?
But it goes back to his inability to shoot the ball. The offense just doesn’t move well from a halfcourt set. The issue is not the offensive scheme, the issue is the players in the offensive scheme. The Boston Celtics won a title with a horrible shooting Rajon Rondo. With great perimeter players around him, the Celtics were great. However, that doesn’t mean that Rondo was not willing to shoot. He took his shots as defenses played off him and that is what Simmons must learn to do.
That not only starts with him but his teammates. Simmons does not have those around him willing to place the blame on him. If Butler is brought back, he must take that role of a vocal leader. Someone has to tell Ben that he needs to improve and why. If this is not fixed for the 2019-20 NBA season, then the Philadelphia 76ers will find themselves looking up to the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, yet again.
Losing Simmons will hurt but it may be for the greater good. Give Embiid and Butler a slasher who can shoot, and not even a buzzer beater will derail their future.