The decision has been made: Ben Simmons is now a power forward.
Ahead of the season restart at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown revealed that the two-time All-Star is playing power forward in practices, not point guard. The move is expected to move Al Horford to the bench, with second-year guard Shake Milton taking over point guard duties.
Is it the right move for the 76ers? Is it the right move for Simmons? And how does it impact Philly's chances of being the team that emerges from the Eastern Conference?
To unpack Simmons moving to power forward, our NBA.com Staff played a game of Fact or Fiction.
This improves Philly's chances of winning the East
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Fact. I think it improves Philly's chances because it should solve some of the offensive issues that have plagued them this season, but I'm still skeptical that they're a legitimate threat to win it all, mainly because I'm not sure what to expect from Shake Milton. While he's shown some potential this season, there's a lot more pressure on him now that he's the starting point guard on a team hoping to make a Finals run. Until I see more from him, I still have the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics ahead of the 76ers.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Fiction. I'm a bit wary of a team that has to make a change this drastic, this late into the season. I mean, Ben Simmons is Philly's All-Star point guard, this isn't just a role player that the team is trying to put in the best position. While this change might be beneficial, it speaks more to the uncertainty inside of the Philadelphia locker room. The teams that the Sixers are in contention with aren't looking to make these kinds of changes eight games ahead of the postseason.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Fiction and for two reasons. On one hand, I find it curious only because this is the best Simmons has ever looked and it seemed as if he was ready to get past some of those disappearing acts that plagued him for stretches in last year's postseason. That Philly is moving Simmons off the ball perhaps sends a signal that it has doubts about Simmons's ability as a primary facilitator. The second reason is that I sincerely doubt this fundamentally changes how they deploy Simmons. I don't think we've seen the last of the jumbo-sized Sixers and I still think that look - with Al Horford alongside Joel Embiid - is what will ultimately seal Philly's fate, for better or worse.
Ben Simmons will be a better version of Draymond Green
Rafferty: Fact, although it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. I still think Simmons is going to handle the ball far more than Green ever has and he doesn't provide any spacing as a stretch big. (Green hasn't been an accurate 3-point shooter over the last couple of seasons, but the best version of him could make wide-open 3s). They're also different defensively - Simmons is more of a perimeter defender, whereas Green is more of an interior defender who can guard the perimeter - but I think Simmons has the potential to be a supercharged version of Green for this team. He should be dynamite on the short roll and his versatility on defence should shine even brighter.
McGregor: Fact. When you put it this way, I actually warm up to the move a little more. Along the lines of what Scott says above, there are some big similarities that are held back from some nuanced differences that add difficulty in making a one-to-one comparison. I can see Simmons put his passing on display as a roll man, much like Draymond does, but the problem is whether or not he'll have the shooters to find on the wing. That, I'm sure, will have a great impact on how effective he is.
Adams: False. If we're talking the 2019-20 version of Green then of course. But the spirit of this question harkens back to Green's Death Lineup heyday and using that version of Green as a benchmark... just, no. Green's ability to defend fives and push the pace and attack the short roll and even occasionally stretch the floor when left alone... that version is superior to Simmons. Throw in the fact that Green might be the smartest defensive player of the last decade and to me, Simmons just isn't yet on that level and doesn't quite pull everything else together in the way that Green did at his peak powers.
The 76ers regret signing Al Horford
Rafferty: Fact. I can understand why the 76ers were interested in Horford - he's one of the few players in the league who have had some semblance of success defending Giannis Antetokounmpo in the past and he's quite the insurance policy for the perpetually injured Joel Embiid - but it's hard to believe that they don't regret signing him for as long and as much money as they did, especially now that he's been moved to the bench.
McGregor: Fact. It's hard to justify making that signing now as this lineup shift is almost conceding that there isn't a good fit for Horford with this team. He brings great things to any team but the fit was complicated to begin with. Horford is 34, has another three years left on his contract and while he's great insurance for Embiid, it's hard to feel secure in a situation that means your star centre is hurt.
Adams: Fact. We finally agree! Look, it didn't make a ton of sense at the time and it quite honestly remains a head-scratcher 12 months later. Long-term, it's hard to see how exactly this will work out given Horford's age and the bloated figure still left on the hook. I will say though, I do think the issues integrating Horford have been overblown. The lineup of Horford, Embiid, Simmons, Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris has been really good (+8.5 net rating) and impossible to score on even if there are severe offensive concerns. Let's not forget either that part of the reason they signed Horford is to not get bludgeoned in the non-Embiid playoff minutes, which they did a year ago. In last year's loss to the Raptors in the Conference Semifinals, the 76ers were outscored by 52.5 points per 100 possessions in the 99 non-Embiiid minutes. That's not a typo.
This is the best use of Ben Simmons
Rafferty: Fact. Ultimately, I think this is the best use of Simmons long-term. Again, him playing power forward doesn't mean he won't bring the ball up the court anymore. (A big part of the appeal of starting Milton is that he can play off-ball. Close to half of his shot attempts this season have been catch-and-shoot 3s and he's made a whopping 44.2 percent of those opportunities). I'm guessing it just means he will do more power forward-like things, especially in the halfcourt, like setting screens and rolling to the basket. More of that should lead to good things.
McGregor: Fiction. He's still going to have some point guard responsibilities, but I ultimately believe his doing more power forward-like things will add more confusion to things. This might not be a bad move at next season's training camp, but it comes off as a desperate move now. In short, I just don't think the team has enough time to adjust to the changes right now and the best use of Simmons would be to have him continue what he was doing this past season.
Adams: Fiction. I understand the critical need to get more shooting on the floor around him. But Simmons is also among the three or four best playmakers in the entire league and someone who just doesn't pose much of an off-ball threat (although he does have some strong potential as a screen and roller, as Scott mentioned). I'm with Gil in the sense that this reeks of desperation. As a general rule of thumb, taking the ball out of your best playmaker's hands doesn't seem like the optimal strategy and there's little doubt that he's one of the leagues three or four best facilitators, bar none.
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