Philadelphia 76ers: Simmons at center really isn’t all that crazy

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Though it may seem crazy on paper, don’t be surprised if the Philadelphia 76ers deploy their starting PG, Ben Simmons, as a small ball point center in 2018.

If you’ve seen Brian Windhorst on an ESPN show at any point over the last three months talking about the Philadelphia 76ers, he’s probably presented his theory about why Ben Simmons should play some small ball center next season.

According to Windhorst, deploying Simmons at the five spot would not only help to disguise his inability to knock down a jump shot but also give Brett Brown arguably the most athletic five-man set in the entire league when Joel Embiid is off the court.

Honestly, it’s not as crazy as it may sound.

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Now don’t get me wrong, Embiid is, and likely will continue to be the 76ers starting center for the foreseeable future, as he’s easily one of, if not the best player in the league at his position, but really, what does the team have behind him?

After moving on from Richaun Holmes for basically nothing earlier this summer, the Sixers only have two other players on the roster with experience playing the five,  Amir Johnson, and Jonah Bolden.

But between Johnson’s age and Bolden’s inexperience, that’s hardly a pairing that will strike fear in the hearts of opposing defenses.

No, for Philly to truly step things up and get where they need to be, they need to find creative ways to get their best players on the court, and giving Simmons minutes at the five would certainly help to accomplish that.

And the idea’s not totally unprecedented either.

The player most people associate with Simmons, LeBron James has been featured in”death lineups” for years, where coaches surrounding the all-time great passer with four competent shooters on the wings.

Needless to say, a lineup featuring Landry Shamet at the one, J.J. Redick at the two, Furkan Korkmaz at the three, Robert Covington at the four, and Simmons at center could cause some problems.

Additionally, while playing Simmons at the five could be helpful on the offense of side of the ball, as it would allow the team to load the field with auxiliary shooters, it could also be a major boon to their defensive abilities as well.

Sure, Simmons was pushed around a bit last season by much larger opposing big man, but with a year of training under his belt, it’s conceivable that Simmons’ size, speed, and athleticism could make him an absolute terror under the basket as a shot-blocking rim defender, an element of Coach Brown’s defense often goes without when Embiid is off the court.

Even though it’s not the most conventional way to structure a lineup, playing a team’s starting point guard as their backup center, if last year proved anything, it’s that a team needs to be creative to fully utilize Ben Simmons skill sets to its fullest.

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So why not playing at center? While it may be a bit confusing for fans, just imagine how much more confusing it’ll be to opposing teams trying to guard the 6-foot-10 guard/forward/center.