Ben Simmons catalyzed a 119-95 Sixers win in the team's preseason finale, contributing 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The kicker? Simmons looked noticeably more comfortable attacking in one-on-one situations and in motion. Throughout October, Simmons' rigid touch around the basket, reluctance to shoot at times, and ability to handle contact all limited his efficiency. An exceptional 9-of-11 from the floor, with the majority of his looks coming near the basket, Simmons needed this type of spark for himself entering the regular season.
Simmons finished runners, a two-hand fadeaway push shot, and layups through contact. He also converted an early mid-range jumper off the backboard in pick-and-roll that triggered a flood of points for the rookie. Simmons packed a variety of looks into this game and showed some diversity as a self creator.
He wasn't tunnel-visioning into finishing himself, either. Simmons attacked and hit a cutting Jerryd Bayless on the baseline for a layup, threw a crisp wrap-around pass to an open Covington for a made three, and kicked out attacking with his right to locate Saric wide open. His vision and passing acumen on the move creates legitimate scoring opportunities for wings. Simmons rewarded off-ball cutters, enabling his wings to get efficient, close looks. Simmons' influence showed tonight, and he needed that confidence jolt as a primary creator.
Joel Embiid couldn't replicate Brooklyn's otherworldly effort, facing resistance from Hassan Whiteside and losing his touch when winded, but impacted other categories. He ousted Whiteside at the 9:39 mark in the first quarter, instinctually drawing three quick fouls, sparking a 23-10 Sixers run. Embiid only totaled one block, but he constantly went up to affect shots at the rim and forced multiple misses at point blank range.
Embiid's defense, ability to draw fouls and function as a screen setter ameliorated his 1-for-7 shooting performance. Whiteside's a sentry-like defender with legitimate instincts, and his two blocks on Embiid illustrated his crazy length, but Embiid was noticeably slow on his motions during those blocks and in general. In 15 first-half minutes Embiid, tallied just five points, but given the circumstances and additional impact, Embiid had a mildly successful game. His opener with more flavorful sets from Brett Brown should be a necessary remedy for this plain performance from the 7-foot-2 stud.
J.J. Redick lived up to his esteemed billing of elite shooting two-guard this preseason, capped off with a 19-point performance - fueled by going 5-of-6 from deep. Redick scored running off of screens, in pull-ups, catch-and-shoot and in rhythm. Redick's 85.7 percent clip from deep isn't sustainable, duh, but you have to be incredibly optimistic about his chances during the regular season and with budding playmakers. With Markelle Fultz's jumper almost a liability at this point, and the possibility of him missing time, Redick will shoulder a heavier burden as a gunner.
Both Redick and Simmons were main contributors in the Sixers' 46.7 percent (42-for-90) shooting clip tonight.
Additionally to Simmons, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot exploded in the preseason finale with 17 points, four boards, and three assists. Luwawu-Cabarrot stood out as an off-ball cutter last season with weaker ball handlers, and his efficiency in the Sixers' offense could ascend with capable facilitators. High energy and natural quicks help Luwawu-Cabarrot get to the paint easily against wings and that tonight spotlighted that potent combination. The second-year swingman scored 10 of his 17 points from the line and shot 90.9 percent there. He easily was able to turn the corner on defenders, and if that ability to slide and mirror slashers comes around early this season, TLC could snatch minutes in his position battles.
Nik Stauskas needed a finishing outburst offensively and earned it tonight by showing touch on his jumper and cutting en route to 11 PTS (5-of-7). He also needed Furkan Korkmaz to slide offensively and that outcome also transpired. Korkmaz created a crazy behind-the-back, Eurostep into a layup, but Stauskas overshadowed him with more diverse offense. Points and efficiency will determine this position battle this year, given that they are in the same archetype of player. Their roles are simple and execution is vital for either wing.
Saric left points on the table, missing all of his four shots from deep, and showed no lift on his missed layup attempt at the rim, but the shot arc is where it needs to be. He wasn't been deployed as a primary initiator in the second unit, as his vision and touch were marginalized.
Both Robert Covington and Justin Anderson had some lapses in one-on-one defense, but were able to sit and contribute three collective steals. Anderson had to excel off the bench, clawing for minutes at the backup 3. He's not quite a 3-and-D wing, but tonight, he showed flashes on both sides of the ball (8 PTS, 3-of-4 FG, 2 STL).