The Philadelphia 76ers are wrapping up another losing season, one in which prized rookie Joel Embiid played just 31 games and number one overall draft pick Ben Simmons never even hit the floor. All that’s left to determine is whether Embiid will win rookie of the year on the back of just 40 percent of a season (in which he was great despite a minutes limit), and where exactly they’ll draft this year.
Assuming Embiid and Simmons come back healthy—and that’s a pretty big assumption, given their history of leg and foot injuries—the Sixers should progress next year, and Simmons will be the most intriguing cog in the machine. He’s a legit 6-foot-9, but as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reports, rather than playing him at forward, the Sixers want him to be their starting point guard next season.
“I feel that the team has to try that immediately,” coach Brett Brown said. “In my eyes, we are going to try that. I feel that it’s something that I doubt you say, ‘That didn’t work,’ and you just move on quickly.’”
The Sixers have rolled with T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez at point this season, and with all due respect to McConnell’s habit of sinking game-winners, they have the worst offense in the NBA. They might as well roll the ball out and let Simmons work as a point guard.
The obvious test case here is the 6'11" Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has handled the ball a lot this season. While he isn’t exactly Kyrie Irving, Antetokounmpo has still managed to excel when he gets to run the offense. More importantly for basketball fans, it has been fun as hell, and something different than what you usually see.
Simmons, like most rookies, will likely be overwhelmed, especially considering he will be playing a new position. Whether he can operate as a full-time ball handler at the NBA level, against guards six inches shorter, remains to be seen. But his sublime passing skills are already well known, and his short time in Summer League was stocked with lovely dimes. He needs to be on the court, and this partially clears the Sixers’ front court logjam as well as getting their five best, most exciting, players on the court.
The Sixers will have at least one top pick in the draft this year, and most mock drafts project that a handful of point guards will get picked in the high lottery. Who knows? In a few months, the Sixers might end up with Markelle Fultz and none of this will matter. The hypothetical Simmons point guard trial will be very much an experiment, but it’s one that the Sixers might as well take if they have the chance.