This weekend the Sixers won a close one against the Dallas Mavericks but it seems that more of the talk was about Markelle Fultz injury, Jahlil Okafors lack of playing time and who we should trade him for. What should be talked about is the magic that Ben Simmons performs on the floor each night and how’s he’s developed in the early part of this season. We’ll break it down below.
1) Ben Simmons is the real deal. He, in only six games, has shown why he was the #1 overall pick two years ago and why he is expected to be a superstar in the league for years to come. His only issue seems to be a lack of an outside shot. With is height, vision and skill, he’s playing to his strength and doesn’t go out of his range. His vision and passing are something to truly be amazed by. He knows where his teammates are, at all times and has no problem making any passes in the league. His pass to Embiid on Saturday was pure magic as he drove the lane and faced a collapsing double team. How he was able to get the ball around Nerlens Noel and hit Embiid in the corner with a no look pass is beyond comprehension.
The knock on Simmons, for his lack of an outside shot, is a mystery since it took Lebron a few years to get better and more comfortable from a distance outside his comfort range. Simmons at least seems to realize his limitations in this area and doesn’t attempt a lot of long shots. As he develops his game and adds that to his repertoire he will become unstoppable. As I watch him play, he seems to hold the ball quite a bit longer than usual, but if you’re looking at the other players on the floor, they’re not really making movement but rather waiting for him to make a move and get them the ball. As he plays with better players (see Fultz, Markelle) he’ll move more quickly and be able to make a quicker decision on offense. Right now, he’s an absolute wonder to watch play the game and as his confidence grows, so will his scoring and domination during games. As is the absurd knock on Lebron, he’s not forcing himself but rather making the correct basketball play.
2) Joel Embiid is getting beat up by some for not taking the ball down low and being overly aggressive where he can obviously dominate anyone in the league. He’s been drawing his defender outside and playing a little safe to start the season. That doesn’t seem to be a problem, but rather Embiid getting more comfortable being on the floor and playing healthy. As his confidence in his health grows and he’s able to get comfortable down low, he’ll gravitate there and head outside when it’s necessary. It will help his overall game as he’s obviously a good shooter from outside, but not a guard. He just needs some confidence in his legs before he can start keeping himself down in the box and bullying the centers in the league. What he must work on is his turnover, especially later in games. If he doesn’t get it under control and let the game to come to him, he’ll be a late game risk when on the court. Right now, though, it seems that he’s out there having fun and getting used to playing and the other guys on the court.
3) The Sixers 2-4 start has people all over arguing that they’re not a playoff team, that they can’t win, the Brett Brown can’t coach, etc. It’s sad to see the comments and it seems like everyone is forgetting that Embiid didn’t play the whole preseason and the starting lineup hasn’t been together that much. It doesn’t help that Amir Johnson has done nothing so far this year to justify his $11 Million contract. The Sixers would be better served having Johnson come off the bench but that’s where Brown has a problem. The Sixers brought in Reddick and Johnson to play. They paid a lot of money for them and hen eeds to have them on the floor. Along with Jerryd Bayless, these guys have to be out there and I’m sure that the Colangelos have something to do with that. They didn’t pick Brown and right now they’re stuck with him, but they can force his hand on rotations, to an extent.
4) Speaking of the Colangelos and how the team is being run… How can the Sixers justify how they’ve handled their top draft picks? For the past few years they’ve had their top pick miss the whole year and it seems like Fultz could be headed that way too. Everyone gave him a hard time for adjusting his shooting, but no one has looked at the real problem and that’s the Sixers not properly diagnosing an issue with the top pick in the draft.
With Fultz being out for three games and now indefinitely, it makes you wonder what the top of the team is doing that they can’t get things right with valuable players on this team. It seems that injuries are always late to be diagnosed, then they’re misdiagnosed, then they get to be too much for the player and finally they’re shut down for longer periods of time than they should have been. It reminds you of the late 90’s Flyers medical staff. It’s sad and it’s costing players and the team. There needs to be something done for the health of the players and the franchise and I’m not sure that the C’s are the people to run this organization.
They’re NBA darlings and that’s really the only reason that they’re here, but to see how they handle the team, you have to wonder how long it’s going to be before they do something really stupid and have the Sixers, who seem to be destined to be a really good team in the future, relegated to being the midlevel team that we all despised for the years following the Finals run of Iversons team. It’s not so farfetched to see them making poor decisions and ruining all that “The Process” has entailed over the past few years.
5) I’ve mentioned a few times at the start of this season that Fultz should be shut down. He has great movement and his defense will be good, but the shooting and obvious pain he was in didn’t do him any favors. The shoulder injury, when reading about it, should be able to be resolved without surgery but this shouldn’t be something that’s happening now. It should have happened when he first started showing the pain and adjustments he was making. You can’t play games with the health of the #1 overall draft pick and future of your team. The word of Fultz being a bust is just overblown nonsense and the kid needs the time to heal and come back healthy. There’s a reason that he was chosen #1 overall and it wasn’t close in the draft. It was Fultz then nine guys that could go in any order after him. This is a Sixers issue and not the guy is suddenly, in two weeks, the next Anthony Bennet.
6) Dario Saric finally played a good game against Dallas. If Saric isn’t tired from all the basketball he’s played over the past three years, then what could the issue be? Maybe, just maybe it’s the quality of players around him. Last year, when starting in the second half of the season, Saric should have been the Rookie of the Year. This year, as the 6th man, he’s on the floor with a lot less quality of player than even last years team had. Now, with the starters, he has a good game? It’s not a coincidence.
1) When does TJ McConnell start getting credit as being a good NBA player? Hopefully, it’s soon. The guy should be starting if it wasn’t for Jerryd Bayless and the need to have his $9 million salary on the floor showcasing for a trade. He provides a great energy, very good defense and has good vision on the court. He can make the passes needed to play in the league and he doesn’t get crazy trying to get himself points. There’s no one that can tell me that Bayless is better than he is and there’s no reason he’s not starting. Bayless is horrible on defense and the only good thing people mention is that he’s a good outside shooter. Well, that’s what the team signed JJ Reddick for. As a point guard, Bayless is a waste of space and defensively, he could accomplish just as much if he were sitting on the bench. He won’t be a starter here and he’s not part of the team going forward, so why would he be on the floor over McConnell? Money and hopefully to showcase for a trade.
2) Bobby Portis! That’s the name that you heard a lot this weekend in the city from people that want the Sixers to move Okafor to Chicago for. It’s a guy who’s in his third year in the league and wasn’t going to start for a horrible Bulls team and just so happened to physically destroy the guy who would start ahead of him by way of a punch to the face. Is this they guy that you really want on the Sixers? I can’t even believe that I would have to ask. Would he be happy coming off the bench behind Embiid, Simmons, Johnson, Convington, Saric and Richaun Holmes? Would he better than any of those guys? Absolutely not. So why even mention him? Because everyone seems to be hell bent on getting Okafor out of town. Even mentioning that we should just cut the former #3 overall pick in the draft. It’s sad, really, to think that this is the guy people would turn to. If he hadn’t punched a teammate, who would be talking about him?
3) The Okafor situation is a really bad one. The guy is dong the right things. He’s come in to the season in the best shape of his life. He worked on being more mobile to make himself a better fit for the offense and he took time to work on his defense. So, why does he continue to sit and get zero minutes? Why would Brett Brown say that he’s no longer in the rotation? If the guy can get you 14 points and 7 rebounds a game, in limited minutes, then why wouldn’t he be on the court instead of Johnson? Does Brown just not like him?
Maybe we can look to the upper management for this issue. Colangelo signed Johnson and said how he would be valuable in the locker room as well as on the court. Well, he better be amazing in the locker room because on the floor he’s done nothing. You can’t tell me that he’s out there because he deserves to be over a younger and better player. He’s out there because he was Brians second “big” free agent signing this year. He’s a second team guy and that’s where he should stay, but he’s out there starting at the detriment of Okafor and his development. It’s a sad state of affairs to watch Okafor waste away on the bench. It’s even worse, knowing that soon enough, he’ll be playing for another team and have others in the league wondering why it couldn’t work here in Philly. Does that really look good as the team gets better and looks to have premiere free agents want to sign here?
The Sixers roundtable is getting underway this week. We’ll be addressing your questions and issue, so we want to hear from you, the reader, on what you’d like to have discussed. The whole Sixers team here at Philly Sports Network will be involved and we hope you are too.
Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports