Ben Simmons is an exciting prospect because of his marriage of guard skills with a power forward’s body. He is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams no matter where you put him on the court. Having drawn comparisons to LeBron James, the Sixers appeared to have their point-forward of the future.
But Brett Brown took it a step further this afternoon. He declined to make an official designation in the offseason, but Brown told reporters that Simmons will be the team’s point guard when he returns from a broken foot:
Brett Brown: Simmons will play point guard when he returns...not point forward but a true 1. He will also watch games from the bench "soon."— Marshall Harris (@mharrisCSN) December 1, 2016
In a league increasingly tilting toward flexibility and “positionless basketball”, this might not seem all that important. It does, however, provide additional clarity on what the team expects their future to look like. Brown consistently said the team would give Simmons chances or looks at guard in the offseason, leaving room for interpretation. This is definitive.
The view of Simmons as the lead guard will likely inform team-building steps down the line. To an extent, the team hinted at this with their offseason moves. Jerryd Bayless is nominally a “point guard”, but is better suited as a secondary creator / catch-and-shoot player. Bryan Colangelo didn’t — or at least shouldn’t have -- sign Bayless expecting him to carry the primary creative burden.
The Sixers consistently face questions about who will be the point guard of the future, with many speculating he might come from next summer’s NBA draft. 2017’s point guard crop is deep, but a lot of the top prospects are ball-dominant players with questionable range. Below the first tier of prospects — Markelle Fultz and Josh Jackson are the early standouts — this could theoretically impact who the Sixers target with their top pick. If he continues to knock down a high volume of threes, Kentucky’s Malik Monk is a name Sixers fans should keep an eye on.
Defensively, there are even more questions. Who do the Sixers think Simmons can keep up with on the other end? It’ll be interesting to see what combinations of players are put around him. The team’s size and athleticism will be frightening when Simmons returns; Brett Brown has to be giddy about lineups involving Joel Embiid, Simmons, Robert Covington and Gerald Henderson executing his switch-heavy scheme.
Everyone expected Simmons to dominate the ball, and nothing has changed on that front. But declaring his candidacy for the point guard spot outright is a shift in messaging, and we’ll have to see how much influence it has on the team’s decision-making process.