Ben Simmons is a point guard. Don’t you worry your little head about that one.
The top overall pick in the 2016 draft, currently sitting out the first half of his rookie season after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot, will play the NBA’s most important position when he returns to the court. Hopefully, sometime in January.
Despite Simmons standing 6-foot-10 and not having a strict, caveat-free string of play at the position prior to his pro career. Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, full of moxie as always, confirmed as much after practice on Wednesday:
“When he’s ready to go to the court, my intention is to give him the ball and let him be the point guard,” Brown said. “That’s the plan. That doesn’t just happen. It takes a little bit of time to introduce him.”
There ya go, slugger.
This has been a solid week for Process Reformation, what with the release of an extended Sports Illustrated profile on former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, and noise coming out of the northeast that Sixers center/forward Nerlens Noel (the first of four major lottery talents to be drafted by Hinkie, with Simmons’ selection coming through new GM Bryan Colangelo) is working as an active trade chip.
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With that intrigue in hand, Brown told the assembled media on Wednesday that he had all the assets working up against each other in practice, away from the prying eyes of cameras:
“Just the other day we had Jo (Joel Embiid) and Nerlens playing one-on-one back here in Philadelphia,” Brown said. “You all would’ve got a kick out of it. We had Ben (Simmons) on a stool throwing post feeds to Jo and Nerlens. It would’ve, I’m sure, erupted on Twitter if it ever gotten out. … Those three together and watching them and bringing Nerlens back in and having Ben be a part of it, I look forward to it.”
We all look forward to it.
Simmons, who only turned 20 last July, averaged 19.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in a colt-ish freshman season at LSU in 2015-16. Paying little lip service to the “student” end of the laughable “student/athlete” designation that even most one-and-done prospects tend to toe the tips with, Simmons used his time in the NCAAs as a way to prep for pro life, so to speak, thumbing his nose at those that railed against him “using” college ball prior to moving to be paid for his work.
The move couldn’t have come soon enough, as his right foot succumbed to the pressure of his 6-foot-10 frame not long after he provided NBA Summer Leagues with a delightful array of highlights while mostly playing point forward.
It’s all still baby steps for the 76ers, but when your team has lost 213 out of their last 264 games over the past three-plus seasons entering Friday night’s contest against the Orlando Magic, you tend to take the perks as they come.
And for Sixers fans, giving in to the prospect of another lost season in order to throw Simmons to the wolves at point guard will be worth it in the long run. Nothing against the guy, but nobody wants to be talking about Jerryd Bayless in 2019.
That would be the 76ers’ starting point guard now were it not for his ongoing wrist issues, with veteran Sergio Rodriguez (at age 30) filling in during Jerryd’s absence to the tune of 7.7 points on 37.7 percent shooting, 6.8 assists and an unacceptably high turnover rate as a point guard in 2016-17.
The Sixers made a point to triumph veteran signings during the offseason, but the overall results (4-14) have been exceedingly poor yet again in spite of the wondrous work of Joel Embiid (18.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 4.1 turnovers in 23 minutes a night). The complications with the team don’t end at Embiid and Jahlil Okafor’s ever-increasing minutes allotments, working themselves to a comically-off point that seemed to come to a head with the team’s home postponement of a game on Wednesday.
BDL’s Ben Rohrbach, in the wake of the Nerlens news, got a good look at the head before it ran away:
Noel has never played with Embiid, he can’t play with Okafor and an act of God seemingly prevented Embiid from sharing the floor with Okafor, not to mention a broken foot has kept Philadelphia’s No. 1 overall pick this past draft, Ben Simmons, from suiting up with any of his fellow high picks. So, trusting the process has become increasingly difficult, especially for Noel, who may no longer be a part of it.
Simmons, until proven otherwise, will be a part of the 2016-17 76ers starting in 2017. The idea that he’ll be given a chance to earn his keep as a starting point guard – without having to ease into the position in ways that prospects as disparate as Magic Johnson or Giannis Antetokounmpo have had to – should be comforting enough.
The Sixers are still weird. Don’t worry.
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