Defense wins championships. The Philadelphia 76ers have title aspirations this season. It seems the Sixers are very well aware that defense is where they have to thrive if they want to reach the mountaintop this season.
Ben Simmons recently revealed that the Sixers aim to be the best defensive team in the NBA. With the way their roster is constructed, it is certainly an attainable goal for this group.
Of course, everything starts with their defensive anchor Joel Embiid. Embiid is as elite as they come on that side of the ball. The Process finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2017-18, and fourth in 2018-19.
Embiid’s great footwork allows him to cover a ton of real estate when he patrols the interior. He also possesses great timing on his blocks and has great defensive instincts on weakside coverages.
Likewise, Ben Simmons has already established himself as one of the best and most versatile defenders in the NBA. The Aussie guard can pretty much guard every position given his size and athleticism.
Simmons has enough lateral quickness and foot speed to keep in step with some of the smaller guards in the league. Likewise, his bull-like strength and size make him capable of defending bigger wing players and small-ball fives.
Simmons has made it known that he wants to become Philadelphia’s best defender and win Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Brett Brown echoed the same sentiments and believes Simmons can be a nightmare on that end of the ball.
The Sixers were able to retain the services of James Ennis, a scrappy defender who likes to do the dirty work on the floor.
The Sixers also made some key acquisitions this past summer to bolster their defense. They lured veteran big man Al Horford away from the Boston Celtics to beef up their already imposing front court with Joel Embiid at the helm.
The five-time All-Star is a top notch low post defender who also manages to stay with smaller guards on the perimeter. Horford may not be the most athletic big man, and he isn’t the biggest, but his great defensive instincts allow him to be an effective defender.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown has the luxury of having two All-NBA defenders in his front court with Embiid and Horford. That means he can stagger the two big men and have at least one of the locking down the paint for the entirety of the game.
The Sixers lost arguably their best perimeter defender last season in Jimmy Butler. Fortunately, they didn’t let him walk away for nothing; they were able to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat and acquired Josh Richardson in the deal.
Richardson has established himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. His addition should ease the blow of Butler’s loss. It’s arguable that they didn’t lose anything from what Butler brought for them defensively.
Philadelphia also drafted arguably the best defensive player in the 2019 draft class, Matisse Thybulle. He earned the 2018-19 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and led the nation in steals last season.
Thybulle is a 6-foot-6 guard but possesses a 7-foot wingspan that gives him the necessary tools to be a lockdown defender. The rookie swingman has already shown flashes of what he can do in his two preseason outings. He has amassed seven steals and three blocks in limited minutes.
Thybulle recently drew comparisons to former Sixers forward Robert Covington for his disruptive defensive ways. In fact, Ben Simmons went on record saying that he hates it when Thybulle guards him in practice.
They can make it work
The Sixers have the individual pieces to establish a mayhem defense that can clamp down the league. Synchronized team defense is what turned the Toronto Raptors into NBA champions.
Al Horford’s addition is huge for the Sixers. The 33-year old will give them a great veteran presence on the floor that everybody will listen to. Should things go south, he can be a voice of reason, given how respected he is in NBA circles.
Nevertheless, the Sixers have the right mindset and focus heading into the 2019-20 season. They have already made it a goal to become the league’s best defensive team this season. Self-awareness is a great start.