Ben Simmons Could Start at Point Guard

Jul 10, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons (25) protects the ball during an NBA Summer League game against the Chicago Bulls at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons (25) protects the ball during an NBA Summer League game against the Chicago Bulls at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

Ben Simmons has shined in the Las Vegas Summer League thus far, and is showcasing his prowess at the point guard spot in the process.

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure whether or not Ben Simmons has the playmaking chops to function as the primary creator in an NBA offense immediately. His time at LSU was spent alongside a heavily loaded backcourt headed by Tim Quarterman, and his lack of aggression led to many questions regarding just how effective he could be as the main cog at the next level.

I was under the impression that it would likely take him a couple of years to grow into the role, with another skilled facilitator being a near must alongside him in the rotation. With that said, the Philadelphia 76ers’ first overall selection has diminished any doubts whatsoever with his play so far this summer league, and is looking a lot like somebody who could be the starting point guard at the beginning of next season.

While reading too much into Summer League is often a mistake, Simmons has shown a lot of intangibles that should translate well against a higher level of competition. His court vision far exceeds that of anybody else we saw drafted this season, with his ability to weave passes through tight windows and create offense from just about anywhere on the court has been nothing short of impressive. He can post up and create off the low block, or he’s capable of attacking whichever defender is thrown at him at full throttle and dishing it off in stride.

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  • Simmons often has a mismatch regardless of position. He’s 6-10 with uncanny quickness and a guard-esque style of play that makes it extremely hard for anybody to stay in front of him. He’s able to find his spots on the floor without hindrance and can orchestrate the offense from just about any angle. While his role may change slightly with more talent around him and more capable athletes on the opposing side, it appears that head coach Brett Brown is going to give Simmons ample room to operate in whichever capacity he pleases.

    The main knock on Simmons coming in was aggression, as he would often shy away from taking shots himself in favor of letting other teammates do the work. That was even the case through the Sixers’ first game in Las Vegas against the Lakers, in which he was hesitant to do much outside of passing the basketball. However, Simmons changed that narrative a bit Sunday night against the Bulls, and will ideally keep it rolling as he becomes more comfortable with the system and the pressure of being in the NBA. He took a number of jumpers from midrange, which eventually began falling in the second half. His stroke looks clean, as it always has, as there’s little reason to believe he won’t be able to keep improving that with time.

    This is a Sixers team that needs somebody at the head of the offense who can be the derivative of most offensive production. He needs to be able to not only create opportunities for teammates, something he has shown he can do extensively, but keep the defense honest via his own scoring prowess as well.

    Simmons has shown excellent touch with both hands around the the basket and has all the physical tools to get baskets at a high clip. If his willingness to attack the defense directly continues to trend upwards, there’s no reason why he can’t be the overarching force that drives Philly’s offense on a nightly basis.

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    If Simmons is indeed able to take up the point guard role in it’s entirety, that opens up a plethora of options from a rotational standpoint. They could go big while still adding some spacing around him on the wing, or they could downsize significantly and have him function as the Draymond Green-esque facilitator in a small ball set from time to time. His playmaking should not only increase the room the Sixers’ bigs have underneath, but increase the production of the unit as a whole. Ish Smith and TJ McConnell never brought the same facilitation skills that Simmons can with his physical superiority and generational skill level, and that could very well give more looks to the likes of a Robert Covington or Nik Stauskas when inserted into the rotation.

    Philadelphia’s options have vastly increased in numbers now that Simmons has establishing his versatility in a professional system, and Brett Brown would be foolish not to experiment with a few different rotations considering the Sixers likely won’t be competing for much next year.

    Lineup No. 1

    With that rotation, or the basic conceptual principles behind it, Brown is able to surround Simmons with a trio of floor spacers in Henderson, Covington, and Saric, while still retaining a strong force underneath the basket in Noel. Saric can function as a secondary creator, while Henderson has proven himself over the years as somebody capable of getting into the proverbial teeth of the defense and finding offense.

    The Sixers also have the defensive flexibility here to slide Simmons to the three spot on that side of the ball, while a highly flexible rotation that allows for switches and defensive rotation without yielding any massive mismatches in favor of the opposition.

    Okafor is a more likely candidate to take the starting center job, and there’s no reason why that rotation wouldn’t work as well. He doesn’t give the same defensive insurance that Noel does underneath the basket, but is a skilled low post scorer to work off of Simmons and Saric with more space than he often had last season.

    Lineup No. 2

    A number of Sixers fans have been calling for big ball this upcoming season, and this could be the most effective method of doing so. Simmons has a solid pair of shooting sparks in Bayless and Covington on the outside, while Embiid and Okafor compliment each other much more fluidly than Noel did alongside Okafor last season. Embiid can step out and knock down midrange jumpers on occasion, and gives the Sixers a somewhat versatile rim protector to slot alongside Okafor. This creates as much space as possible for the two bigs while still allowing Simmons to execute to his full aptitude.

    Lineup No. 3

    If Brett Brown decided to go small, this could be a highly effective group to do so. It seems to weird to see Saric slotted as the center, but it’s imparitive to understand that Simmons would be joining him in the frontcourt on the defensive end.

    At 6-10, 240 pounds, Simmons is a highly underrated defensive piece underneath the basket. He can hang with larger bigs and protector the rim effectively, and gives them plenty of options in terms of defensive rotations with Simmons and Saric being as mobile as they are. Offensively, the Sixers would have a rotation geared towards excelling in transition, while four shootings on the floor alongside Simmons to boot.

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    The latest first overall pick has proven his legitimacy as a point guard option, and figures to be the Sixers’ main playmaker as a result come next season. It’s tough to emphasize just how many options Philly’s coaching staff now has with one of the league’s most unique athletic specimens in the rotation. Simmons can fill a bounty of voids on the defensive side of the ball, while clearing up space for more shooting and a more open concept on offense. He looks like a starting point guard, and the team should be looking to slide him into the role in some form.