If you turn on the radio tomorrow or read the comment section tomorrow, you’ll likely talk about two things from the 76ers’ loss to Memphis tonight:
- Wow, what a night from Ben Simmons!
- Uh, what’s going on from Markelle Fultz?
We are prone to overreacting to good and bad, and labeling things too quickly. That being said, while I’ll take that approach for Markelle Fultz momentarily, oh my god Ben Simmons you guys!
Having a 6”10’ point guard manage every possession, almost always generating a mismatch, is just unfair. Simmons didn’t operate with surgical precision, a la the King, but he was the center of attention, and imagining a Simmons with a willingness to score and familiarity with opponents is like entering a euphoric state.
Simmons finished with just two baskets on no jumper attempts, 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists. His assists were pieces of art. He created easy opportunities on most of them - open threes for Robert Covington and others based on penetration accounted for five of the assists. He tossed two dimes to Richaun Holmes, one from halfcourt, and one from nearly under the basket. See below for a sampling from the first half, where he had six of the nine dimes.
Ben Simmons first half dimes pic.twitter.com/ryA6tGxBMK— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) October 5, 2017
He looked the part of a superstar, and the best part is that you can imagine him doing much more. He only a couple times took advantage of a smaller player in a post-up situation, and his teammates mostly couldn’t find him in those spots. He missed some makeable shots around the rim. But he looked amazing overall, and the sky might not be high enough of a limit.
Markelle Fultz did not have as successful of a debut, finishing with 4 points on 13 shots. He dazzled with dribble moves, but he almost always encountered multiple defenders in the paint, and it seemed he never had a concrete plan to attack the defense when everyone collapsed into him.
Having played at Washington last year, that’s not entirely an unfamiliar scenario. The difference now is that NBA players are bigger, stronger, and faster. It will continue to be an adjustment until Fultz matures physically. He is only 19, and he
rolls out of bed needs time.
A lot has been made of his Chick-Fil-A habit. First, been there, bro. Second, Fultz’s bigger impediment is that he got injured before an offseason where he could have spent time developing and improving his conditioning. He’s young enough and by all accounts has the work ethic to eventually overcome that. Third, Fultz due to circumstance is doing this while learning a new offense and taking on a completely unfamiliar role - as an off/scoring guard - in it. Everything for him right now is an adjustment. Reacting negatively to his first preseason game is just way too early to panic, and we should at least give him time to adjust.
The Sixers started Jerryd Bayless ahead of Fultz to start the second half, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the team went in that direction for the starting five if Fultz continues to struggle in his adjustment to the NBA. It’s still not reason to panic, especially once his handle tightens in traffic, once the game begins to slow down for him, and once his shooting regresses to his collegiate mean. He still has all the tools that made him a top draft pick. We’re used to waiting, anyway.
- Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Amir Johnson did not play for the Sixers, as expected. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley sat out for Memphis.
- The Sixers missed Embiid and Johnson dearly. The hyperactive and lethargic traffic cones defending the paint in their place couldn’t stop Memphis from driving through and around them to the rim. Memphis looks ready for the regular season to begin, especially if Conley and Gasol are ready to go now.
- Justin Anderson looks like a deer in headlights when he tried to dribble around other players. His lollipop shot notwithstanding, he’d be a great partner for a fullcourt attack like we saw in the first half if he could just put the ball on the floor at all. An athlete without much basketball skill isn’t helpful, and unlike years past it’s not worth throwing him out there without conscience to let him figure it out.
- Jahlil Okafor - aka The Vegan Jah - had a nice showing. He still had the customary lazy moments, but fewer than on most nights. Incremental improvement in his conditioning might be the difference between “unplayable” and “situationally helpful”. God help his court vision, though. He just can’t process the defensive coverage around him quickly enough to use his previously displayed passing skills.
- After he fouled Ben Simmons on a fastbreak during a meaningless scrimmage, Kris Humphries has earned getting booed by home fans. If he makes the regular season roster, the scorn might reach previously unforeseen levels. He stunk tonight though, so here’s hoping it never reaches that point.
- J.J. Redick looks ready to play a regular season game already. So does T.J. McConnell, who got inappropriately fired up after getting Redick in position to convert a four-point play, fist pump and all.
Also, the score ended 110-89, with the victory to Memphis.