Philadelphia 76ers v Indiana Pacers
Philadelphia 76ers v Indiana Pacers

Sixers gamble on radical Simmons experiment

Life in the NBA bubble has forced players to grow accustomed to an environment many of them are not used to.

For 76ers star Ben Simmons, that includes on the court, too.

Coach Brett Brown has been using Simmons exclusively as a power forward in practices, a departure from his usual point guard role.

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"He's so dynamic," Brown told reporters Monday.

"Let's just talk about running. There's nobody faster in the NBA. So, to always have the ball and dribble it up against five guys … to do that dilutes some of his potent weapons."

Questions regarding fit have long clouded the 76ers, specifically around the pairing of Simmons and co-star Joel Embiid.

Simmons' notorious lack of an outside shot has allowed defenders to sag off him, crowding the paint for Embiid.

That problem was heightened by the addition of Al Horford last season, another big man.

Horford, who made a living throughout his career in the paint and at the elbows, was forced to largely serve as a perimeter shooter when playing with Embiid in order to avoid clogging the lane.

Simmons will likely take his starting role at power forward, a move Brown hopes will form a better frontcourt partnership.

 

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons works out. Picture: Instagram
Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons works out. Picture: Instagram

"So, watching him fly up the floor, watching him and Joel [Embiid] play off each other, has been a really good look. I think they've been fantastic together."

In January, Embiid was sidelined with a torn ligament in his finger.

The injury allowed Brown to experiment with his starting five, specifically with Simmons in the frontcourt.

Simmons was used more as a screener and roller, allowing him to score and create around the basket instead of around the perimeter.

His lack of perimeter shooting was minimised in this role.

"I've always been curious of what that could look like," Brown told reporters at the time.

"I thought [Simmons] was good. I don't know what the numbers bear out, but it's something we tried. I have wanted to try Ben at 5, we did, and I suspect we'll see it again."

The injury also allowed Horford to return to his natural power forward position, and he promptly scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and recorded six assists - one shy of his season-high - in his first game there.

 

Ben Simmons is dynamic enough to make the switch. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons is dynamic enough to make the switch. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

If Simmons does indeed take Horford's starting job at power forward, the 76ers will likely insert point guard Shake Milton into the starting line-up.

Milton has impressed since breaking into the rotation in January, averaging 9.5 points while shooting 45 per cent from behind the arc in 32 games.

He has started 16 games this season, scoring in double-figures in the team's last seven games before the shutdown.

"He's been amazing," Embiid told reporters.

"He's been the starting point guard, and I think he has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can.

"He's been doing an amazing job and he's running the team and we're going to need him to knock down shots, which he did, before the league got shut down. He was on a roll so we're going to need him to keep it going."

This article first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission.

Originally published as Sixers gamble on radical Simmons experiment



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