It has been announced that Ben Simmons will undergo surgery on his left knee. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Simmons needs surgery to “remove a loose body from his left knee.”
Simmons injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Sixers, who are currently 3-1 in the NBA bubble with games against Devin Booker and James Harden/Chris Paul on the horizon. Keep in mind the team may face the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Simmons injury is expected to keep him out for the foreseeable future and he may not return unless the 76ers have a deep playoff run, according to Wojnarowski.
Simmons loss will mainly be felt on the defensive side of the ball where Simmons leads the NBA in steals and ranks in the top 5 in deflections. Offensively, where Simmons leads the 76ers in assists and is 3rd on the team in scoring, his role as the point forward and the stability he brought to the team will also be missed. In the 3 games before the injury, Simmons had been moved to the frontcourt alongside Joel Embiid.
With Simmons now out, there are some things to be expected.
1) A more aggressive Joel Embiid
The offense will now be fully ran through Embiid. He will have full authority on the offensive end to display his dominance. Make no mistake about it, the offense was predicated on getting Embiid touches with Simmons in the lineup, however it will be more evident than ever, that Embiid is (in the words of Brett Brown), “the crown jewel”. Embiid will have the full reigns of the offense, whether in the post, behind the 3 point line or in the mid-range. This is Embiid’s time to re-assert himself as one of the most dominant players in the league and back up his claims that he is the “most unstoppable player in the league.”
2) Tobias Harris living up to his deal
When the Sixers acquired Tobias Harris, General Manager, Elton Brand said the move solidified the teams ascension into contending for an NBA championship. These sentiments were even furthered when the team signed Harris to a max deal this past offseason. Harris signed a 5-year, $180 million contract in June. Before the season’s stoppage, Harris was averaging 19.5 points on 16.2 shots per game. Before the bubble began, many people expected Harris to come in and increase his production. So far, he’s done just that, averaging 24 points per game on 21 shots a game. These numbers will only increase with Ben Simmons off the court. Harris will be that number two option behind Joel Embiid and he has to produce if the Sixers hope to achieve their championship aspirations.
3) Rotation Shake-Up
With Simmons out, there will be a change in the starting lineup. Against the Magic, Al Horford started at power forward in Simmons place. However, I am of the opinion that, Horford is better coming off the bench. He can spell Embiid and the spacing issues wouldn’t be as magnified as they are when Embiid and Horford are both on the court. Two players should be given the opportunity to stake their claims for a starting role: Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks. Tobias Harris should be the starting 4. The main reasoning behind my thinking is the goal of getting as much spacing around Joel Embiid as possible. It is well known that Al Horford mainly operates in the post, similar to Joel Embiid. The key is to have spacing within the offense, all while maintaining offensive production from the bench. Robinson III would start at the 3 if chosen meanwhile, Burks would start at the 2, with Josh Richardson at the 3 if Burks is chosen. Either way, the offensive spacing would be evident and there would be scoring from the bench, which is the ultimate goal. Brett Brown has work to do over the next 3 seeding games.
4) Defensive Adjustments
Ben Simmons defense has been spoken about ad-nauseum by Sixer fans and media members alike. His absence on the defensive end will be felt. This is another area where players will have to step up. Shake Milton and Josh Richardson specifically on the perimeter end. Simmons typically guards opposing team’s leading scorers, that responsibility will now shift to Josh Richardson, who is regarded as a 3 and D player. Shake Milton and his 7’0 wingspan can also contribute on the perimeter from a defensive standpoint. Neither player will be what Simmons is defensively, but they can at least give the team above average defending.
Make no mistake about it, Ben Simmons lost will be felt. His versatility, defensive ability and playmaking ability cannot be replicated by anyone on this team. However, if each player (and coach) takes care of their responsibilities, the team can stay afloat in his absence and Simmons may be able to return and the 76ers can continue their ascent to an NBA championship. That of course, is a huge IF.