The Sixers are without star Ben Simmons for the foreseeable future after he suffered a subluxation of his left kneecap. The season still goes on though and the Sixers must find a way to fill in for his production as they attempt a deep playoff run. But who specifically are the players that have to step up in Simmons’ absence?
1) Al Horford
For obvious reasons, Al Horford makes this list. The $107 million-dollar-man has shown slight improvement during the seeding games but it’s time for him to show why he’s a five-time All-Star.
With Simmons out the Sixers are missing a staunch defensive presence. While Horford won’t be confused for Simmons’ he must step up to guard Aaron Gordon, Carmelo Anthony, and Pascal Siakam, all of whom the Sixers will play in their remaining seeding games.
One area that Horford can help even more than Simmons is as a floor spacer. Horford is shooting 50% from three in three seeding games (albeit on four attempts) and should look to increase his volume as his touches will surely increase.
2) Shake Milton
Shake Milton has already taken over the primary Point Guard responsibilities from Simmons but his role should only grow in Simmon’s absence. Milton should look for his shot more and has to continue to knock down threes with the consistency.
Much like Horford, Milton is quietly shooting 50% from deep though he has started to look for his shot more after only taking one shot in the first seeding game. Over the past two games, Milton is averaging 5.5 threes per game and he should even look to increase that especially since he’s hitting them at such a high mark.
The Sixers have always needed shooters but with Simmons out, the team has a chance to change their offensive philosophy. Brett Brown should shift focus to an inside out game with Embiid/Horford in the post and a barrage of outside shooting surrounding them.
Expect Milton to be a key member of the offense going forward. You can also expect him to easily be one of the top three in three-pointers attempted.
3) Josh Richardson
Josh Richardson has been performing the role of “super role-player” for the Sixers but he’ll need to be a bit more aggressive with Simmons out. The goal should be for Richardson to look more like he did last season with the Miami Heat when Richardson was the team’s primary scorer.
Richardson was also more successful as a shooter which is a tough ask but if he goes shot hunting, he just might get hot. Such was the case when Richardson scored his career-high as a Sixers against his former team the Miami Heat. Richardson scored 32 points on 6/7 shooting from deep. While that’s certainly too much to ask for it shows that he can get hot which may be all the Sixers’ need.
He’ll obviously need to step up as a defender and facilitator but the Sixers will need to find sources of scoring without Simmons.
The more players the better but at least these three players must step up in Simmons’ absence. This is a critical crossroad for the Sixers where they can either lay down or fight back. Hopefully, this team fights, if not, there will be even more to reevaluate than most thought.
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