The Philadelphia 76ers need a legitimate starting point guard

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

After throwing away yet another close game thanks to a slew of mistakes, the Philadelphia 76ers need to find a starting point guard for 2018.

Ben Simmons is the Philadelphia 76ers‘ starting point guard”.

We’ve all heard that statement  a million times at this point, and after many questioned the decision to start a 6-foot-10 should-be forward at the one spot, Brett Brown and company proved that Simmons’ is far more Magic Johnson then LeBron James, but over the course of the NBA Playoffs, specifically the Sixers’ Eastern Conference semifinals bout against the Boston Celtics, the cracks in his game have started to show.

In addition to an offensive skillset that’s severely lacking in versatility, a topic we have previously addressed here, starting a 6-foot 10 point guard has severely limited the Sixers ability to cover offense-first guards one-on-one with disastrous results.

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Facing off against the hardly star-studded backcourt of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, the Sixers have struggled to lock down the Celtics’ small-ball lineup, and a lot of that has to do with their own size.

With only one player in the Sixers starting five measuring in at 6-foot-4 or shorter, in the hardly defensively dominant J.J. Redick, the Celtics have often found their smaller, more athletic playmakers matched up against much larger defenders in iso situations, a matchup they have continuously exploited.

Much like Dwyane Wade in the team’s first series of the playoffs, the Celtics tandem of guards has routinely been able to weave through traffic with relative ease and set up shots for themselves and their teammates with great effect.

And unfortunately for Sixers fans, there’s not a whole lot the team can do about it.

With only four players on the Sixers’ 15-man roster measuring in at 6-foot-4 or shorter, in Reddick, Markelle Fultz, T.J. McConnell and… Jerryd Bayless? only 55 of the team’s 240 minutes of playing time in Game 3 was allocated to players of the correct size to combat the Celtics’ guard tandem, and other than McConnell, none of these players are particularly pesky defenders.

Sure, the Sixers could reinsert Justin Anderson into their rotation, as he can match up better on a guard then, say, Robert Covington, but if the Sixers playoff series against Boston is of any indication, this team needs to add a legitimate starting-caliber point guard if they are going to continue to progress in 2018.

Though many fans likely expect Fultz to take on a bigger role next season as he attempts to reassimilate himself into the Sixers’ rotation full-time, it would simply be unrealistic to expect the 20-year-old rookie to step in from day one and inherently understand the intricacies of playing the point guard position with a player like Simmons on the roster. While Fultz is obviously incredibly talented, so much so that the team traded up to acquire him in the 2017 NBA Draft, playing guard in the Sixers’ current, post-Simmons system requires a lot more than simply matching up against the opposing team’s one and taking the ball up the court.

Whether it be running the pick and roll, switching off defensively, or waiting in the wings for a corner three, the responsibilities of a Sixers’ combo guard are far more nuanced than that of a traditional point guard, and require a level of experience, endurance and basketball intelligence that is gained from experience in the league, not in college or from the bench.

Simply put, the 76ers need a veteran presence at the point.

Prior to the 2017-2018 NBA season, many outside sources reported that the Sixers had serious interest in bringing back fan favorite Jrue Holiday and in hindsight, that interest seems perfectly justified.

Related Story: What’s happened to Robert Covington?

While Redick has been a great addition to the team’s starting five, as he has arguably given them one of the best three-point shooters from the wing in franchise history, he simply doesn’t possess the multifaceted skillset needed to work in the 76ers starting five, and his inability to play multiple positions has really shown in clutch situations.

Holiday, by contrast, has blossomed into one of the league’s premier combo guards right before our eyes in 2018 and has become the perfect scoring complement to the pass-first Rajon Rondo in New Orleans. Without the pressure of being the team’s primary facilitator, Holiday has been able to focus on his offensive game and is putting up the best numbers of his career in a less involved role, averaging 19 points in 36 minutes a game while knocking down almost half of his shots from the field.

And at 6-foot-4, Holiday can cover either guard position.

Though Coach Brown’s squad obviously can’t do anything about adding a veteran combo guard to their roster now, regardless of whether the team is able to pull this series out against the Celtics to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, or Boston pulls out the probable win, this series has exposed a serious flaw in the team’s roster composition, and that needs to be remedied moving forward.

Next: Brett Brown needs to free T.J. McConnell

With defensive-minded combo guards like Marcus Smart, Milos Teodosic, and LeBron James favorite George Hill potential available in free agency, the Philadelphia 76ers should strongly consider bolstering their frontcourt with a veteran guard to help prepare Fultz for the vigors of the starting five, and pair up with Simmons in the waning moments of a game, when an errant pass, like Redick’s at the end of regulation, could mean the difference between a 2-1 series, and a 3-0 heartbreaker.