Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons faces difficult test in Josh Richardson’s absence

Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers’ point guard will face new obstacles in the absence of Josh Richardson.

Ben Simmons‘ time to blossom and prove himself further is now. Two of the starting five — including the league’s best center, Joel Embiid — are currently missing time due to injury. Ben Simmons will face the most pressure he’s ever had to deal with since the Philadelphia 76ers‘ 16-game win streak two seasons ago. Both injures have a direct impact, good or bad, on Simmons’ game. 

The counterargument may be that Ben Simmons has less pressure now, since two of the regular starters are out. Understandably so, the team does have more excuses as a whole and are expected to win fewer games as a result.

Simmons, however, has all the reasons in the world to display why he should’ve started in the All-Star Game, and why he should be treated the same way as other stars. The constant spotlight on Simmons is never positive, and this is the perfect time to change that narrative.

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Embiid’s injury has made Simmons the beneficiary of a more open floor. Simmons has been averaging 20.8 points per game, which is a lot more than prior to the Embiid injury, when he was averaging 15 points per game. He also posted a monster stat line against the Nets earlier this week — 34/12/12/5/2 — which was one of his best games yet. He’s more aggressive, creating open looks, and keeping up his defensive intensity. This is how the court is operated under Ben Simmons.

Despite his continued inability to score in the fourth quarter — averaging 2.14 points in the last six games — due to defenses tightening up, and his limited skill set offensively, it hasn’t really mattered as much, because this is where Josh Richardson has come in as that secondary ball handler.

While Embiid’s injury maximized Simmons, Richardson’s injury really puts Simmons to the test. There were already question marks regarding who was going to take charge of the ball late in games. We know Simmons struggles to create for himself.  Raul Neto isn’t a good enough scorer to do it. The ball was delegated to Tobias Harris against the Raptors, but he lacks the quickness and handles to be that guy. This all falls back on Simmons and the changes he makes to his game.

Will we see Simmons blossom even further, or has he already bloomed. We have seen what he is capable of doing and Brett Brown has done a good job of using him to his full potential. With the added responsibility and pressure on Simmons,  we’ll see how he deals with the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter — no, it won’t be a jump shot.

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The Sixers are facing a slew of good teams over the next two weeks, including the Celtics, Heat, Clippers, and Bucks. Most likely all without Embiid and Richardson. Can Simmons lead this team during this difficult stretch? His first test… is against the best version of himself, LeBron James.