The Philadelphia 76ers played in their first of three scrimmage games ahead of the season restart as they took on the Memphis Grizzlies.
In addition to it being an opportunity for the Sixers to get their legs under them, it was the first opportunity to see how All-Star Ben Simmons would look after making the switch from point guard to the team's starting power forward position.
Simmons saw 23 minutes of action, finishing with nine points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the Sixers' 90-83 victory.
The numbers are one thing, but how he got there and how he looked in his new role are another. That being said, here are a few key observations from Simmons' first action in five months.
1. He looks healthy. A nerve impingement held Simmons out of the team's final eight games prior to the break. The hiatus provided Simmons with an opportunity to heal, as evidenced by bursts of speed and the bounce he showed
2. The move to PF wasn't just talk. A skilled player like Simmons in an era of positionless basketball won't ever be reduced to one position, but Simmons spent the bulk of his time matched up with Jaren Jackson Jr. on defence. Offensively, he served as the screener in pick-and-roll situations, was the low man in high-low sets and spent plenty of time in the corner, meaning…
3. We'll be seeing more 3-point attempts. Well, we should be seeing more. Each of the first two triples of Simmons' career has come from the corner, often viewed as the easiest 3-point shot because it's the closest, with respect to distance. Being spaced out in the corner as a PF likely means these opportunities will present themselves with more regularity in the near future.
In the first half against the Grizzlies, Simmons took an open corner 3 without hesitation. While the shot came up short, the attempt showed a potential change in mentality as Simmons hasn't shot the ball with a consistent level of confidence up to this point in his career. This was evident in the second half, as Simmons knocked down the next open triple he attempted.
Ain't this what they've been waitin' for? pic.twitter.com/Ff16rzfX6K- Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) July 24, 2020
Head coach Brett Brown has said that he has seen a "paradigm shift" in Simmons' new willingness to shoot (Jon Johnson, Sports Radio WIP). In order to be a threat to knock 3s down, you first must be a threat to shoot them. If Simmons can make that step forward, the Sixers offence can benefit.
4. It's still a thing of beauty when he pushes the ball. Simmons was among a number of Sixers to bring the ball up the floor a number of times in the first half, the others being Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris. While he wasn't taking as many inbound passes, Simmons pushed the pace off of defensive rebounds and steals.
When an elite passer like Simmons pushes the pace, good things usually happen.
.@BenSimmons25 → @FurkanKorkmaz- Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) July 24, 2020
📺 @NBCSPhilly pic.twitter.com/gwdytQirOq
5. It's still just one scrimmage. Ultimately, this is just one of three tune-ups to prepare the Sixers for eight seeding games and, ultimately, what they hope to be a lengthy postseason run. You don't want to overreact to anything that happens in an exhibition game, but there are some trends that we could continue to see down the line from this Sixers team.
Simmons and the 76ers are back in action on Sunday, July 26 as they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder at 12:00 p.m. ET.
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