Ben Simmons is back in Philadelphia! Well, at least in some form.
What remains to be seen is if he’ll actually suit up for the final preseason game or for any of the Sixers’ regular-season game. It’s a step in the right direction for the Sixers though. Their goal for the past few weeks was to get Simmons back in Philly and try to sell him into the idea of competing at a high level with the Sixers.
While Simmons’ future in Philadelphia is still murky at best, it can possibly be a positive in some form. Assuming that Simmons is indeed willing to play games, it could be very beneficial for the team — more specifically for Isaiah Joe. The Sixers are a better team with Simmons than without him.
As we all know, Simmons is one of the most unique talents in the entire NBA. He does a lot of things at a high level; defend, rebound, facilitate, etc. His glaring weakness of shooting (or lack of) remains. If/when Simmons takes the floor, the Sixers will need to surround him with a plethora of shooting.
The great news is the Sixers have a homegrown shooter that has shown some really impressive flashes in Joe. He seems to be primed for what will be a breakout year. Joe has averaged some impressive numbers throughout the preseason. His efficiency and defense have especially stuck out.
Isaiah Joe through 3 preseason games:— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) October 12, 2021
2.3 SPG (!)
Shooting splits: 64% FG, 63.2% 3PT, 90% FT
Averaged 5.3 FGM/8.3 FGA, 4 3PM/6.3 3PA
The preseason is the preseason, so there are things to take with a grain of salt. But any player that’s averaging 60/60/90 splits deserves a real long look at the very least in the modern NBA.
So how does Simmons’ never-ending situation impact Joe? Well, it all comes down to the roster. We’ve seen Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey fill in the majority of the minutes at point guard for the 48 minute-long game times. Apart from Grant Riller and Shaq Harrison, they’re the only ones capable of dribbling on a consistent basis and playmaking for others.
Calling either Milton or Maxey a “playmaker” is even a bit of stretch right now. Both are better utilized as strictly scorers. While both are capable of making good passes, I don’t think either will be the best versions of themselves if they have serious playmaking duties.
Milton especially has struggled early on the preseason. He’s the person most people point to when asked who should the Sixers throw out of their regular rotation. The absence of Simmons has made it very tricky to not play Milton, however. While Joe has flashed some playmaking skills, they’ve been just that; flashes. Joe has shown some serious promise but we need to remember that he’s only a second-year player, and he’s never played point guard to a high capacity. Asking him to come in and do that with either the starting lineup or second unit is a huge ask.
Simmons possibly returning would give the Sixers a player that is capable of running the offense full time — at least in the regular season — meaning the point guard minutes available outside of Simmons would begin to dry up. Maxey, who has leap frogged Milton in the rotation in the eyes of most, would probably get those outside minutes.
The Sixers’ biggest need would no longer be a playmaker or off-the-dribble scorer, but more so shooting; which is where Joe comes in. Joe has completely outperformed Milton in the preseason on multiple levels. At this point he’s labeled by most as the better shooter, and you can argue that Joe’s defense is at the same level of Shake Milton’s, if not better. Joe fits in well with either unit too, as he’s shown a capability of being a secondary playmaker. Both Maxey and Furkan Korkmaz have also showcased that they are capable of setting up others as well.
Nice dribble penetration and setup from Isaiah Joe on this Drummond lob. pic.twitter.com/q7ScKx1yOm— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) October 12, 2021
All of this points to Joe coming in with a more simplified role that fits well with the current personnel found on the roster. Joe can be the tremendous shooter that he is, and he wouldn’t have to worry about running the offense full-time. Easing Joe into a bigger role with time at a good and easy rate should be a high priority for the Sixers.
While the Simmons saga has been very repetitive and tiring (even for us here at Liberty Ballers), his return to playing would be extremely beneficial to Isaiah Joe. The decision for finding Joe his minutes would be much more simplified with Simmons back into the mix.
Isaiah Joe’s play has warranted a serious argument that he needs real minutes in the Sixers’ rotation. Whether it’s with or without Simmons, finding minutes for the up-and-coming sharpshooter will be of utmost importance for the Sixers’ coaching staff.