By Peter Gleason
Last night’s Sixers euphoria at drafting such a talented and charismatic player as Ben Simmons turns into this morning’s stark reality:
The first thing big boss Bryan Colangelo will have to figure out is Simmons’ position. He played the four at LSU, but he showed no interest in playing post defense and his lack of range could cause spacing issues at the next level.
Those are also concerns if you play him at small forward, so Simmons may be better suited to play point guard on the offensive end with two shooting guards next to him in the lineup.
Another big decision will be figuring out which big men to keep on the roster. The team was reportedly shopping Nerlens Noel before the draft, which may be a sign the Sixers think Joel Embiid, the only other rim protector on the roster, is ready to play next season.
Jahlil Okafor is the best low-post scorer on the team but he’s a defensive liability and needs a lot of touches to be effective. Dario Saric, who is coming over from Europe to join the Sixers next season, is unlikely to be moved. He’s the one frontcourt player on the roster who can stretch the floor, which will compliment Simmons’ game.
Okafor could be the odd man out. A lineup with featuring both Simmons and Okafor might have spacing issues and would struggle on the defensive end. Colangelo could flip him for a shooter like Khris Middleton, who can score from anywhere on the court, and more draft picks to fill out the roster.
And with $55 million in cap space, the front office can pursue an elite 3-and-D player and some role players in free agency over the next few offseasons.
That would give the team a young, balanced lineup that can grow together over the next few years.
PG Ben Simmons
G High-priced free agent
G Khris Middleton
PF Dario Saric
C Nerlens Noel
Sixth man Joel Embiid
With the salary cap taking a big jump next year, the front office should have no problem keeping that core together.
If the 76ers see Simmons playing the role he did in college, they will have to find a point guard who won’t dominate the ball and take it out of Simmons’ hands. But that would put more pressure on Simmons to be a scorer rather than a distributor, the role he is more comfortable playing.
What the Sixers cannot afford to do is to constantly tinker with Simmons’ position and role. They will need to figure out his best position and stick with that decision. That will allow them to come up with a plan for building the roster as quickly as possible. Because after four years of “trusting the process,” 76ers fans will not have the patience for yet another long-term rebuild.