An uncertain time during the NBA hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic has left Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown with plenty of time to think. Ben Simmons’ defensive aptitude has been a major revelation for the franchise, yet the Sixers are still mired in the sixth spot in the East and have been dramatically poor on the road, winning only 10 of their 34 road games (.294 winning percentage).
Simmons’ defensive prowess has been a great boost to a team that lost Jimmy Butler last summer, but his reluctance to shoot the jumper, ANY jumper, has erased whatever other progress he has made in his game.
With four months off and away from the hardwood, Brown finally came to his senses by choosing to move Simmons to a more natural power forward spot and placing Shake Milton as the starting point guard in recent practices.
This move was long overdue.
Simmons has made his living in the paint and running the fast break while registering a career 8.7% efficiency on 23 3-point attempts in his three years in the league. Through only 52 games in his brief two-year career, Milton has already canned 62 3-pointers at a 41.3% clip (45.3% this season).
The Sixers are 19th in the league in 3-pointers made per game (11.4) and a middle-of-the-pack 14th in 3-point percentage (36.2%). Those numbers simply won’t get the job done in the postseason.
Moving the 6-foot-10 Australian to power forward would allow Harris to move back to his original small forward position and make use of his size and length to exploit matchups.
Simmons will still be able to run the break, make show-stopping defensive plays, and get plenty of inside scoring opportunities while also facilitating for his teammates, but he will no longer be clogging up space and be a non-factor on the perimeter.
Brown will still look to make the most of Simmons’ towering size and his end-to-end speed (he’s apparently feeling as fast as ever), but moving Milton to the point gives the Sixers a much-needed perimeter presence to make up for Simmons’ reluctant mindset.
It took Brown a couple of years to realize Simmons wasn’t ready to become the shooter he envisioned, and to his credit, he made the most of a long hiatus to devise a change in strategy.
If these three weeks of Training Camp 2.0 prove enough, the Sixers should look like an improved version of themselves now that Brown seems committed to this move.