When people talk about Ben Simmons the first thing that comes up is always the same: why won’t he shoot threes?
The Philadelphia 76ers’ success timeline is reaching its spire.
The franchise has spent the better half of the last decade out of playoff contention, and now with the Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at the core of their lineup, it’s make or break for the 76ers.
Accumulating all those draft picks through tanking has gifted the franchise with two superstar talents in Embiid and Simmons. Last year, the 76ers were eliminated by the Raptors in a Game 7 buzzer-beater, which has already cemented itself as one of the greatest buzzer-beaters in Finals history.
Had that ball not went in, it could be a very different story today.
As it stands, the Eastern Conference is wide open. The departure of Kawhi Leonard to LA has significantly weakened the Raptors, while also giving hope to many other teams wishing for an NBA Finals appearance. Although the 76ers lost the services of JJ Redick, TJ McConnell, and Jimmy Butler, their chances to reach the NBA finals still remain large thanks to the work of Elton Brand.
The 76ers gained the services of Al Horford and Josh Richardson while also re-signing Tobias Harris.
Despite losing Butler, the 76ers seem to be in a better position than last year. Harris no longer has to figure out how to co-exist with Butler, and at the same time Embiid now has a solid back-up centre in Horford, while also adding a three-and-d talent in Richardson.
It is yet to be seen how the 76ers will line up without Butler, with his talents a significant contribution towards the playoff run they had.
76ers should be the favourites heading into the 2019-20 season; Boston lost Kyrie Irving and Horford, Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol and the Raptors lost Leonard.
This leaves the door wide open for Philadelphia, who have acquired almost better talents than what they lost.
The biggest question Philadelphia faces is who takes the game over? Who takes the reigns in the fourth quarter and closes it all out in those tight games?
The 76ers weren’t shy to bench Simmons in the final stages of games due to his poor free throw percentage (60 per cent), however, he might just be the key to the 76ers’ success.
Placing the ball in Simmons’ hands and trusting him with the game on the line is something that the 76ers should look to do. Despite not being able to shoot the three, his talents within the paint are superstar calibre.
With wing players like Harris, Richardson, and even Horford, Simmons has a variety of options to distribute the ball. Leaving Embiid in the paint is also crucial, and the 76ers shouldn’t rely too heavily on bringing him out to the perimeter.
Much of the 76ers’ success weighs on Simmons’ development and if he will be able to improve his three-point shooting and jumpers. If Simmons can develop and prove this to Brett Brown, he will be the perfect option to take the game over in fourth-quarter situations.