After a four-plus-month hiatus, NBA basketball is able to retake the stage. The restart and the unprecedented circumstances surrounding it have produced no scarcity of intrigue, and final week the Philadelphia 76ers added yet another storyline to the pile once they introduced that All-Star Ben Simmons would transfer from the purpose guard place to energy ahead within the workforce’s beginning lineup.
The Sixers possessed a good quantity of intrigue even earlier than the announcement. Their revamped roster (goodbye, Jimmy Butler, good day, Josh Richardson and Al Horford) wildly underperformed expectations, holding the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed on the time of the shutdown. Questions about whether or not the workforce might discover the shape that was anticipated of it and turn out to be a dark-horse contender for the NBA title had been plentiful. Now, we’ve added a place change for one of many league’s brightest and most polarizing stars into the combination.
During the workforce’s three scrimmage video games, we acquired our first glimpse at what Simmons as an influence ahead would appear to be. The outcomes had been fascinating, to say the least.
Before digging in, it’s value noting that the change isn’t fairly as drastic because it sounds. There will nonetheless be ample alternatives for Simmons to deal with the ball as a main initiator each as an influence ahead (in transition) and as a conventional level guard when the Sixers start to get into their rotations. Still, there will definitely be adjustments with the new-look beginning 5. Here’s what we’ve realized up to now in our transient observations of the experiment.
The most noticeable iteration of the new-look Sixers concerned Simmons working on the elbow, a placement that we noticed produce a number of wrinkles. In one, we noticed Simmons obtain the ball on the elbow whereas Joel Embiid set a display for Tobias Harris on the weak aspect. Harris dribbled right into a pull-up jumper. In one other, and maybe that is probably the most fascinating and harmful wrinkle, we noticed Simmons get the ball on the elbow and easily flip and break down his defender. Here is the place Simmons’ most deadly attributes — pace, dimension and playmaking capacity — may be finest exploited. Simmons is only a dribble away from the rim, and the protection should be conscious. From this place, he can explode to the basket for a rating or punish a rotating protection both with a kick-out to a shooter or a dump-off to a teammate on the rim. This situation additionally opens the chance for continued ball motion, sending the protection scrambling and opening the door to a myriad of fine seems to be.
One different wrinkle we noticed is a two-man sport with Simmons and his substitute on the level guard spot, Shake Milton. After passing to Simmons, Milton cuts throughout Simmons’ face. If Milton’s defender goes beneath of Simmons, he merely passes it again to Milton for a wide-open three. If he goes over, Milton can lower arduous to the basket. Or Simmons can flip and face the basket, and the Sixers can get into certainly one of their different choices.
Simmons working from the elbow was the obvious, and versatile, distinction to floor up to now, nevertheless it wasn’t the one factor he did in his new function. We additionally noticed Simmons performing some screening and operating some decoy actions on the weak aspect, which is presumably one thing the workforce might broaden on because it will get used to the change.
In earlier iterations of the Sixers experimenting with Simmons off the ball, Philadelphia would usually have him lurking within the dunker’s spot, alongside the baseline simply outdoors the paint. And right here we now have one other massive change. During the workforce’s three scrimmages, we noticed extra of Simmons settling within the nook. Much maligned for his unwillingness to shoot the ball from outdoors of 10 toes, Simmons launched two three-pointers within the Sixers’ first scrimmage, hitting the second. That factors as a lot to a change in Simmons’ mindset because it does to something particular in regards to the place change. But if he continues to indicate that willingness to shoot, the impression on the workforce’s experiment, and actually its general prospects for fulfillment, is immense.
It’s not possible to attract particular conclusions from three scrimmage video games after a four-month layoff, however the early returns for the Sixers are past encouraging. Quickly into the season, it turned clear that the roster building was a bit clunky, notably on the offensive finish. The Sixers would typically get slowed down within the halfcourt, and the spacing was largely horrible. The change to the beginning lineup might show to be simply what the workforce wanted to open issues up offensively and to permit it to play to the strengths of every particular person piece extra productively.
Questions stay for Simmons and the Sixers, however if you happen to’re a betting individual there’s fairly a possibility right here. As the Sixers didn’t gel and discover any form of consistency in the course of the season, they went from a title favourite to an afterthought. That stays the case because the league prepares to get again on the courtroom, creating some worth for anybody prepared to take a threat on the Sixers and their experiment.
One factor’s for certain: The Sixers can be value watching in Orlando. They’ve dedicated to creating a daring transfer in an effort to salvage a season that began with the best of hopes and to unlock the complete potential of one of many league’s most gifted younger stars. The outcomes of their experiment might have profound impacts not solely on the result of the present season, however on the workforce’s future because it tries to maximise the championship window of one of many league’s finest younger duos in Simmons and Embiid. As the Sixers attempt to put the items collectively, is that this the transfer that unlocks the puzzle?