With two starting forward positions now up for grabs following the Jimmy Butler trade, is the Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons point guard experiment over?
While one of those positions seems relatively obvious, as Elton Brand and Josh Harris clearly didn’t trade for Butler to have him come off the bench, who on earth is going to be Philly’s starting power forward when they face off against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday?
Could it be Ben Simmons?
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Now granted, Simmons will without a doubt be starting at some position on Wednesday, but after spending almost 100 games as the Sixers starting point guard, could he transition from the backcourt to the frontcourt full-time and officially become a power forward?
While that may seem like a pretty big leap in responsibility, it could be an effectively seamless transition as far as Simmons responsibilities are concerned.
As virtually any Philly fans who even casually watches the 76ers can probably attest, Brett Brown essentially uses Simmons as their primary ball handler on the offensive side of the court (point guard) but shift him inside on defense while his A-plus athleticism is an absolute terror in the paint (power forward). So, even if the team were to start J.J. Redick at shooting guard, shift Markelle Fultz to point guard, and have Simmons play power forward, they could essentially keep the same playing style that’s work so well at times already this season, while promoting their best shooter to a starting role once more.
And hey, just because Simmons would be starting at power forward, that doesn’t mean he can’t still line up at the one for stretches of the game.
After watching Simmons play very well alongside Joel Embiid and Mike Muscala in a surprisingly effective big ball lineup, Butler’s addition could make that lineup all the more formidable, especially if Wilson Chandler can return to full strength and play small forward.
With Butler’s addition, Brown’s scheme just got a whole lot more flexible, not less.
However, the one factor that makes projecting the rotation shakeup all the more tricky to predict is the human factor. While Simmons appears fairly flexible about his role as long as he’s playing early and often, it’s abundantly clear that he considers being the leagues tallest point guard as a point of pride. Would he be willing to change his position, even if it doesn’t change any aspects of his role at either end of the court?
That is something that’s a whole lot harder to predict.
Furthermore, if the team were to instead opt to elevate Chandler or Muscala to a starting role, how would Redick take that sort of development? As the team’s second (soon to be third) leading scorer, Redick has been a good soldier in coming off the bench as a way of helping to elevate Fultz’s confidence, if he were to be passed over yet again, that rock hard his patience may start to erode.
No, if the Philadelphia 76ers are serious about starting their five best players moving forward, they need to insert J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler into Brett Brown’s starting five, and the easiest way to do so, outside of benching Markelle Fultz, is to shift Ben Simmons into the frontcourt and start the 2018 Rookie of the Year at power forward.