About a week ago, my friend David Esser wrote a piece highlighting the Ben Simmons’ injury. In this article, David questioned if Alec Burks could help fill the void that was being created due to Simmons not playing. As Dave also notes, “Burks has really struggled to land a solidified role with the Sixers since being acquired at the trade deadline via the Golden State Warriors. He’s been used off the ball as a floor spacer, on the ball as a point guard, and occasionally he’s seen himself outright benched for the likes of Raul Neto.”
However, despite not really finding a fit with the team at first, Burks was able to step right in.
Ben Simmons went down in the game against the Washington Wizards. The Sixers still took the victory in Orlando, but it cost them. Losing Simmons had many writers and fans completely counting the Sixers out of any playoff chances. Alec Burks, however, has brought some light to the dreadful situation.
Burks was able to step in and play 19 minutes in that Wizards game. Here, he only could scrounge together nine points, but went two for two from deep. Making a career out of being a floor spacer, this is just what the Sixers needed to open the floor up for Joel Embiid as well. It did not take Burks long to figure out his role for the Sixers, getting bulked playing time in four of the last five regular-season games.
Aside from sitting out the Toronto game with soreness, Burks has been lighting the stat sheet up for Philly. In four regular-season games, he has averaged 25 minutes a night off the bench, averaging just over 20 points. To back those numbers up, the NBA veteran is shooting 55% from the floor, and 45% from beyond the arc. He is providing that scoring spark that the Sixers have needed direly.
Alec Burks’ strong efforts during the bubbled regular season has not gone overlooked by his coach. Coach Brett Brown has drawn comparisons that Burks should take with high praise:
“All of the good teams have somebody that does what Alec does,” Brown said after Friday night’s game against the Rockets. “We had one in Philadelphia before me in Lou Williams,” Brown explained. “Lou Williams is instant offense, and Alec has been lightning in a bottle since we’ve all come back from the break here in Orlando, and all good teams need one. He has provided that and along that path provided a secondary ball-handler, a backup point guard if you will.”
Moving forward, the Sixers will have to rely on Burks heavily. As the bench becomes shorter, a guy like Furkan Korkmaz or Alec Burks will be crucial to the second unit’s scoring. With a tough first-round matchup in the Boston Celtics in round one, this secondary scoring will be crucial to having any chance in the series.
In the 109-101 loss, Burks had 18 points in 28 minutes along with 6 boards and 2 assists.
Opposing coach Brad Stevens was asked about Simmons’ absence following Boston’s game against Washington on Thursday:
“They’re a heck of a team,” Stevens said. “In the games Simmons hasn’t played, they’re the No. 1 offense in the league.”
Whether saying they’re the number one offense in the league is factual or not, ironically enough, whether you are on the “trade Ben Simmons” bandwagon or not, the numbers don’t lie. Since Simmons has gone down to injury, the Sixers have been one of the highest-scoring offenses. Alec Burks is one of the biggest reasons for this.
To follow up with David’s article mentioned earlier– Alec Burks has been able to live up to the task. He has cemented that secondary ball-handling and scoring role. This has allowed Joel Embiid and Al Horford to gain more space down low. Whether you want to blame Ben Simmons for clogging it up or not, Burks is exactly the type of player that needed to get hot for Philly right now. And, rightfully so, Burks has officially earned himself a spot in the playoff rotation moving forward, with or without Ben Simmons.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire