The Philadelphia 76ers finally have talented roster ready to play, but Ben Simmons‘ debut puts Dario Saric‘s starting power forward role in question. Will “The Homie” find himself starting or carving out a sixth man role?
Joel Embiid stole the spotlight to start the season, and improvements to players like T.J. McConnell and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot drew headlines as the year wrapped up. However, the most promising and influential season came from Dario Saric, who was robbed of Rookie of the Year not too long ago. The roster as currently constructed puts into question what the starting lineup will look like once opening night rolls around, including whether or not Saric will be out there for tip-off.
For some, it seems comical to leave Saric out of the starting lineup. His first season in the NBA showcased plenty of talent and passing instincts on which he would build on in year two. Brett Brown offered continuous praise to his power forward, and he developed a strong fan base within Philly.
The possibility that he would not start grew after the trade for Fultz. Throughout the 2016-2017 season, Coach Brown reiterated his vision that for the upcoming season, Ben Simmons would be the starting point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers. With his unique mobility and ability to facilitate an offense, the near 7 feet tall Simmons would fill the one spot instead of the four.
With Fultz now likely to be slotted at point, the question lingers whether Simmons and Saric at the three and four would compliment or clash with each other. Playing both together adds playmaking potential to the lineup and a lethal fast break. Either player (as well as Fultz) could bring the ball up, forcing the defense to stay on their feet with three talented passers on the court.
Unfortunately, neither of the two talented players are good shooters yet. Spacing the floor is a necessity to maximize the skillset of Simmons and Embiid. Saric shot barely over 31 percent from three this year according to ESPN, well below the league average. Embiid player very well last year with Ilyasova beside him, who stretched the defense so Embiid had full room in the post to overpower his opponent.
Saric is beloved among Philadelphia 76ers fans, but Simmons is the more valuable prospect. If he is best slotted at four in order to load the wing with shooters and defenders, I see the team leaning towards having Dario come off the bench. All effort should go towards pairing up the Fultz, Simmons, and Embiid trio with whatever players compliment them best.
It is important to understand that placing Dario Saric as the sixth man is not a detriment to the player he is. In fact, it may represent just how much Brett Brown trusts him. Brown came from a Spurs organization that kept Manu out of the starting lineup, which in no way hurt his image or career. By establishing himself as a player Pop could trust, Ginobili had a greater impact coming off the bench and leading the second unit against players not as talented as himself.
Brett Brown may envision a similar future for Saric. He speaks extremely highly of the power forward, praising his hard work and determination. In leaving Saric out of the starting lineup, Brown provides the team with an extremely talented player capable of holding his own as a weapon off the bench, plus someone he can rely on to make the right play when others are struggling.
When opening night is upon us, the best player on the Philadelphia 76ers from the previous year may not be on the court for tip-off. Even though playing Simmons at the three and Saric at the four fills the court with playmakers, the team may find Simmons is best suited at power forward, moving Saric to the bench. If this does happen, Sixers fans should not be disappointed, with Brett Brown now having weapons to use off the bench. No matter when he is on the court, Saric will carve out a role as a hard-working playmaker on which the team can depend upon.