Ben Simmons Can Deliver Ish Smith Boost To Philadelphia 76ers

Point Guard Ben Simmons mid-season arrival to Philly repeats history of Ish Smith. Will his arrival bolster the team’s production in similar fashion?

Point guard Ben Simmons is patiently awaiting his debut in the National Basketball Association. The Philadelphia 76ers are doing their best to hold it together until he arrives.  Head coach Brett Brown has gone on record saying Simmons will be a point guard when he joins the team. A true 6-foot-10 point guard. It all goes down in 2017.

Something has to give.

Logic dictates that the team will struggle from the onset as Simmons attempts to learn the point guard position as he attempts to learn about his team.  Track record dictates that the team will intersperse long losing streaks with an occasional but infrequent win against a struggling NBA team.  Conservatively, the arrival of Ben Simmons to a squad of rookies and unfamiliar veterans will only extend the learning curve to everyone, making the 2016-2017 season another “development” year for the roster.

That’s just nuts.

Ben Simmons was assessed as the top overall pick in the nation by a myriad of basketball analysts.  And for good reason.  He has a unique blending of a center’s height, a power forward’s strength, a small forward’s quickness, a shooting guard’s basketball IQ, and a dash of point guard’s ball distribution. He bring laser-guided assists to a team that is surprisingly robust with outside shooters.

Simmons brings more than a point guard who can dish. He becomes the keystone, the point guard who can score.

Sep 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons (25) dribbles the ball during media day at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Highest Ceiling In The Draft

Besides laser-guided passing and a guard’s IQ, what else does Ben Simmons bring to the Philadelphia 76ers?

In addition to the “highest ceiling in the draft” consensus by a majority of respected basketball analysts, he also brings offense and defense. Simmons contributes on the defensive end already: He blocks shots, forces 3.6 steals per 100 possessions and, most of all, grabs 30.3 percent of available defensive rebounds. There are few players in college basketball who can boast that defensive prowess.

Plus, the strategy of how to play Simmons on a very bad Louisiana State University team cannot be overlooked: If your star player averages 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds 2.0 steals and 4.8 assists, you don’t assign that player to be a staunch defender and wear him out or place him into foul trouble. Simmons shot 56 percent from the floor, and he’s just getting started.

You see, he’s been off now as he rehabs his foot.  But much like the rehab period of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons is not catching up on the latest episodes of The Kardashians.  Simmons is working on basketball fundamentals, improving his shot, observing the team and diagnosing how to improve the production.

Nov 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Jerryd Bayless (0) defends against Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Chicago Bulls won 105-89. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Take Your Best Shot

The Philadelphia 76ers have three “point guards” on the roster in the form of Sergio Rodriguez, T.J. McConnell, and Jerryd Bayless. As a group, the group has covered the one position for 22 games. So far, the group has scored on 117 of 301 shots from the floor (good for just under 39 percent) and on 33 of 102 shooting from three point range (good for just 32.25 percent).

Broken down, the team is getting 13.27 points per game from the point guard in 48 minutes.   Albeit not all three have contributed in each of 22 games.  Jerryd Bayless, the presumed season’s starting PG, has appeared in just three games. The 13.27 represents the weighted average of all three.

And it’s not very impressive.

Teams almost dare 76ers point guards to take a shot, which T.J. McConnell refuses to do.  Bayless appears willing, but with only three games in and a sore wrist, he cannot be expected to turn it around.  For now, it falls to Sergio Rodriguez to man up to the challenge.

In the past six games, he has stepped up.

But as his scoring goes up, his assists slowly erode.  For November 2016, Rodriguez scored an average of just 7.1 points per game, and dished out 6.8 assists.  In December 2016, he’s brought average score up to 11.3 points per game, but watched assists fall to 6.3.

Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons (25) yells from the court during an NBA Summer League game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Thomas & Mack Center. Los Angeles won the game 70-69. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Someone Needs To Lead

Granted, the Philadelphia 76ers have been plagued with poor shooting at times from any number of players, which eliminates any assists. But at no time is that more evident than in the closing minutes of a close game. Whether after a time out, after the other team pulls ahead, or after the Philadelphia 76ers get a turnover, the team seems to focus on shooting itself in the foot.

Ultimately, the Philadelphia 76ers do not have enough minutes out of Joel Embiid to have him on the court late in the game. If they do, the opponent simply surrounds him, daring the other 76ers to take a shot. Either they don’t, or they miss. And that’s the ball game.

Ben Simmons changes that dynamic in a big way. With the size and strength of a forward, he will have no trouble slicing to the basket and fighting for a layup.  But he has that amazing passing ability. So he compounds the job of defenders in three ways.  Defend him, and he’ll find the open man at the perimeter or the post.  Defend the post, and he’ll take the shot or dish to the perimeter. Defend the perimeter, and he’ll cut to the basket, or pass to the post.

But most of all? He won’t hesitate to act.

Jun 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers number one overall draft pick Ben Simmons (25) and number twenty-fourth overall draft pick Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (20) pose for a photo at a press conference at the Philadelphia College Of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Drop Anchor

We know that the front court will have Dario Saric and Joel Embiid for years to come.  When Simmons takes the basketball court, it will be a good time to boost minutes for shooting guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Now up to 10.8 minutes per game in the month of December 2016, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored an average of 3.8 points per game, shooting 36.4 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three-point range. He also has chipped in 1.8 rebounds, .5 blocks and .33 steals per game.

While Gerald Henderson is clearly the best day-in day-out shooting guard on the team right now, and Nik Stauskas seems to be getting cozier with the coaches, TLC is the future shooting guard of the team, and should be given minutes to ensure his development remains on track.

Simmons and TLC, at this moment’s vantage point, must develop teamwork in the backcourt now. Teamwork which will pay huge dividends for the team down the road.  While Simmons runs the team’s formations, TLC shows promise of being the team’s emotional leader.

He’s fearless.  He’s raw.  He just needs minutes.

Simmons returns in 2017.  While he will need time to adjust, the Philadelphia 76ers have plenty of margin for improvement at the one position. Is it too much to hope that the team improves when he returns?  Not at all.  In fact, there are plenty of reasons to believe his arrival can show an immediate positive impact.

Recall the impact of point guard Ish Smith on the Philadelphia 76ers last year?  Simmons can do all that, and more.

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