‘Tremendous’: Simmons’ perfect fit
FOR two seasons the 76ers have put out one of the best five-man line-ups in the NBA - and for two seasons they've been bounced out in the second round of the playoffs.
Starters like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and JJ Redick certainly haven't been blameless, but it's what's happened when the 76ers bench players have taken the court - particularly the back-up centres replacing Embiid - that's been a major problem.
After a wild free agency, Philly GM Elton Brand and coach Brett Brown hope that trend is over.
The 76ers will still begin the season with one of the more underwhelming bench units in the league - that's the downside of shelling out more than a $100 million for your starters - but the signing of Al Horford could change everything.
One of the more common themes in the analysis of what to expect in Philly after their main moves saw Horford and Miami small forward Josh Richardson replace Redick and Jimmy Butler is what the former Boston Celtics big can do with the bench.
The Athletic's Mike O'Connor is excited to see what happens when Embiid sits and Horford combines with Simmons to keep the 76ers afloat.
"Horford's fit with Embiid seems less than perfect, but his fit with Simmons - with Horford as the backup centre, at least - should be tremendous," O'Connor wrote.
He argued Horford's ability to hit open threes at a much better rate than Embiid would make it more dangerous for opposition teams to build a defensive wall at the free throw line - a tactic Simmons has struggled with - and leave Horford free as a trailer.
The Ringer's Ben Detrick agreed, noting how Simmons had struggled with back-up centres Amir Johnson, Bob Marjanovic and Greg Monroe last season.
"He doesn't need a jumper to be great, but requires specific surrounding personnel," Detrick wrote.
"Horford changes that. Not only is he an exceptional defender, but his ability to shoot from deep and clever passing make him an ideal fit with Simmons when Embiid is on the pine. With every meaningful centre minute occupied by an All-Star-caliber wide-body, Philly should see a significant uptick in consistency and have ample opportunities to rest each. And when Simmons feasts in the decongested paint, be sure to credit Horford's sage veteran leadership."
But NBC Sports' Paul Hudrick argued the signings wouldn't largely change the trajectory of the franchise unless Embiid improved his conditioning and Simmons found confidence in his jump shot.
"While landing Al Horford and Josh Richardson is great, those acquisitions won't mean much unless the Sixers get the best versions of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons," Hudrick wrote.
"With Simmons, it was the same story as last postseason. With his inability and unwillingness to shoot, teams are able to defend Simmons by clogging the paint and sagging way off him.
Simmons needs to get his shot fixed. He doesn't need to be a sharpshooter, but he needs to be good enough to have defenders respect it. If that happens, the sky is the limit."