The Sixers are big. They’re really big…but enough of that storyline. Brett Brown will have the opportunity to toy with several small ball lineups without sacrificing production, which is something he didn’t have last season. Let’s take a look at some potential “Death Squad” lineups the Sixers could deploy:
Ben Simmons, Zhaire Smith, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford
It’s a bit strange to call this a small lineup since you have 3 players that are 6’9 or taller here. However, it is smaller than their starting lineup. This group of five would allow Richardson, Harris, and Horford to play their natural positions and the team doesn’t lose much defensive integrity without Embiid. Plus, there are still enough shooters surrounding Simmons.
Ben Simmons, Zhaire Smith, James Ennis, Mike Scott, Al Horford
This could be a lineup we see a lot of. Ideally, Simmons and Horford would spend a lot of time together on the court. With Horford as the center instead of Embiid, Simmons will have a much clearer paint and the option to both drive and finish or drive and kick. Smith and Ennis are rangy defenders who can knock down open shots and Scott will provide some more spacing from the frontcourt.
Trey Burke, Josh Richardson, James Ennis, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons
This is my personal favorite but also the lineup that we are least likely to see. There won’t be much need for Simmons to play small ball center with both Horford and Embiid on the team. That doesn’t mean it still wouldn’t be fun to see an offense that revolves around Simmons grabbing rebounds, running the open court and dishing to spot-up shooters everywhere like the Bucks do with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, James Ennis, Tobias Harris, Al Horford
This could be a really interesting lineup to experiment with. Richardson can handle the ball and create for others in short bursts, as he has proven with the Miami Heat. Horford may be one of the most underrated passers in the league. He can be a facilitator from the top of the key or in the post. Having those guys run your offense in small minutes when Simmons needs rest could be effective enough to where it could work. This could be a really useful lineup come playoff time, where Trey Burke’s size could become a problem.
Ben Simmons, Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle, James Ennis, Al Horford
Talk about defense. Simmons, Smith, Thybulle, and Horford are all top-notch defenders. James Ennis is no slouch either. This lineup could work very well against other small ball teams. Every player is long, athletic and quick enough laterally to switch nearly everything on the perimeter.
Raul Neto, Zhaire Smith, Josh Richardson, Ben Simmons, Al Horford
Having a traditional point guard like Neto on the floor would allow Simmons to slide down to power forward, which may be the position he should be playing anyways. Simmons could take the dunker spot and be a secondary facilitator instead of a primary one, sort of like what the Sixers did when they ran Jimmy Butler as a point guard in the playoffs last season. Simmons’ lack of shooting makes him difficult to run at point guard in the postseason so having this option is very important.
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