With the writing on the wall that Ben Simmons’ time in Philadelphia coming to an end, the 76ers are going to need to replace his production. While Simmons of course has his scoring and shooting woes, he is still an all-star and one of the best defenders in the league. Can Simmons’ impact on the game be filled by players already on the team?
It feels inevitable that Ben Simmons will be traded very soon. But as we have learned with recent reports, Simmons is not afraid of potentially sitting out. With the potential return for Simmons being so unpredictable, and the possibility of Simmons sitting out, the Sixers have to look at their current roster and see if they can replace Simmons’ production. The front office and coaching staff can almost pretend Simmons has a season ending injury.
Keeping that in mind, how does Philadelphia still win games? Last year, Simmons averaged 14.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.9 apg, 1.6 spg in 32.4 mpg. The scoring will be easy to replace, so there are no worries there. Simmons’ ability to rebound from the guard spot is unique. That being said, the rebounding can be replaced by a more aggressive team rebounding effort. That leaves two areas of the game that Simmons was most effective. Distributing the ball and all-around defense. Those two facets of Ben’s game missing from the team is what should scare Philadelphia. So who can step up and fill Simmons’ shoes?
Philadelphia’s Roster With Ben Simmons
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Ben Simmons||Seth Curry||Danny Green||Tobias Harris||Joel Embiid|
|Tyrese Maxey||Shake Milton||Furkan Korkmaz||Matisse Thybulle||Andre Drummond|
|Jaden Springer||Isaiah Joe||Georges Niang||Paul Reed||Charles Bassey (not signed yet)|
|Grant Riller (two-way)||Aaron Henry (two-way)|
Philadelphia’s Roster Without Ben Simmons
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Tyrese Maxey||Seth Curry||Danny Green||Tobias Harris||Joel Embiid|
|Shake Milton||Furkan Korkmaz||Matisse Thybulle||Georges Niang||Andre Drummond|
|Jaden Springer||Isaiah Joe||Aaron Henry (two-way)||Paul Reed||Charles Bassey (not signed yet)|
|Ben Simmons (hold out)||Grant Riller (two-way)|
Running the Offense
Main Contributors: Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, Seth Curry
This is the biggest worry that the 76ers should have if Ben Simmons does not play. Simmons has been top-12 in assists per game all four seasons of his career. The offense runs much smoother with Simmons on the court, compared to off the court. While Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris are very capable of scoring one on one, the rest of the roster relies on Simmons to create offense for them. When Embiid and Harris are not looking to score, Simmons is looking to create open shots for others. That mainly involves drive and kicks to three point shooters. Seth Curry is really the only Sixer who can both rely on Ben, and create his own shot.
This is where Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, and even the aforementioned Seth Curry come into play. Jaden Springer could eventually find himself on the list of playmakers. But with this being his rookie season, do not expect Springer to be able to run the offense. Out of all the above names, Maxey is going to be the most important when it comes to running the offense.
We saw extremely great flashes from Tyrese last year in his rookie season. Most of what he was doing however was scoring. That is okay, because last year Maxey was not really being asked to run the offense, that was Ben’s job. Now with Maxey in control, he needs to prove that he can run the offense. Maxey will be able to distribute, but do not expect him to match Simmons production by himself. That means the offense could look out of tune at the beginning of the season.
Even with Maxey running the offense, that still is not enough to supplement the hole left by Simmons. Shake Milton has experience running the offense in the past, but he is going to have to improve on that part of his game. He has shown to be capable in that role, but nothing more. Milton’s game is more based around creating his own shot, not shots for others.
The same can be said about Seth Curry, but Curry is in a bit of a different situation. Curry is the starting two-guard and therefore has not been asked to run the offense. That especially went for when Simmons was on the court with him. We saw Curry’s ability to score at will and even run the offense a little bit in the playoffs however. Curry really stepped up in the playoffs, and a continuation of that type of play could really help the Philadelphia offense.
Main Contributors: Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey
Obviously it is important that everyone plays good defense. But with Simmons out, the Sixers lose their top defender. Simmons was capable of eliminating the opposing team’s top scorer. That let the rest of the defense shine even brighter since great defenders were on the opposing team’s second and third options as well. The competition for primary defender will be between the veteran Danny Green and the budding defensive star Matisse Thybulle. There is no denying Thybulle is the better defender, but is Thybulle’s offense too much of a liability to be put into the starting lineup?
With Green being the starter last year, I give him the edge at being in the starting lineup. The loss of Ben will make offensively ability that much more important. While Thybulle displayed improvement at the Olympics, we need to see it on an NBA court before we can trust it. Not to mention, when Danny Green got injured during the Atlanta Hawks playoff series, he was a bigger loss to the team than expected. Green also said in an interview that with Simmons out “I probably become the primary defender.” Although Green was a very good defender last year, he will need to step up and become a great defender this year. The team will rely on his defensive skills more this season.
Even though the loss of Ben Simmons will hurt, having a guy like Thybulle makes it hurt a lot less. The key with Matisse as mentioned above is improving his offense. His defense is going to get him playing time, make no mistake, but he can earn himself extra playing time if he becomes more well-rounded on offense. His play for Australia at the Olympics in Tokyo was extremely promising. If Thybulle can continue to play like that, he can become a star in the NBA. Defensively, the one thing Thybulle needs to work on is his discipline. It is normal for a young player to try to go for the highlight plays, like steals and blocks. That can sometimes bite Matisse however, and get him into foul trouble. Matisse needs to realize that he is important to this team, and staying on the court is too important to take as many risks as he normally does. The 76ers deep bench last year allowed him to be more aggressive. With more minutes coming his way, he needs to make sure he can stay on the court.
If you could not tell, Maxey is going to be very crucial in replacing Ben Simmons. While Maxey is not one of the first guys you think of on the team when it comes to defense, he is no pushover. With more playing time, he will need to show he can hang with the big boys. Maxey has shown no signs of being a defensive liability, but he also was never on the other team’s best scorer, and did not play too many minutes. The situation should be monitored to see if Maxey can handle defending better players for longer periods of time than he was asked to in his rookie season.
Photo Via: Eric Hartline - USA TODAY Sports
Simmons time in Philadelphia is coming to an end. Love him or hate him, his playmaking and defensive skillsets are undeniable. The 76ers will lose a lot without Ben, and they need to be prepared to match his production if they want to compete for a championship.
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