Philadelphia 76ers: Imagine pairing Ben Simmons with Kemba Walker

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Was Ben Simmons still an odd fit as a full-time point guard, imagine the Philadelphia 76ers offense with Kemba Walker running the show.

While watching the Philadelphia 76ers go toe-to-toe with the Charlotte Hornets in their first home game in almost a week, a thought occurred to me that deserves some consideration: How much better would Brett Brown‘s squad be with Kemba Walker running the show?

Now granted, this is purely hypothetical, as I doubt the team would be willing to give Walker a max-level deal next summer, and their collection of potential trade assets, T.J. McConnell, Dario Saric, Wilson Chandler, Zhaire Smith, and a future protected first-round pick likely wouldn’t be enough to swing a deal with a rebuilding team like Charlotte, but what if they did?

What if the Hornets, hypothetically, didn’t want to pay Walker and instead opted to build around Miles Bridges, a player who looked great against the 76ers in their first matchup of the season, and accepted a package of McConnell, Saric, and a first round pick in an attempt to get things back on track?

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Would a move like that make the Sixers better?

Could moving Simmons to forward full-time alongside Robert Covington help to bolster the team’s frontcourt potential? And more importantly, instead of trying to upgrade the forward position with an elite 3-and-D talent like Jimmy Butler, should the Philadelphia 76ers instead attempt to add an All-Star level guard to complete their version of the Big 3?

Sure, but it would have to be the right player, a player like Walker.

You see, at least on the offensive side of the ball, the 76ers don’t really rely on traditional basketball positions, instead typically opting to have Simmons take the ball up the court, surrounding him with a collection of knockdown shooters to keep defenders honest.

While this can work with a traditional point guard like McConnell running the show, it would be more effective with a knockdown shooting combo guard like Walker filling that one guard spot. Not only would his inclusion give the team an extra shooter that they currently do lack when Fultz and Simmons fill out the backcourt, but it would also provide a secondary ball handler to help spread out the court and take advantage of the mismatches Ben often creates.

Unlike the 3-and-D players, the Sixers have mostly tried to put around Simmons, outside of maybe Fultz, Walker has shown an ability to score effortlessly from all three levels of the court, averaging almost 32 points a night while knocking down 52.4 percent of his shots from the field, and 40.5 percent from 3-point range.

Couple that with almost six assists a game, and you have a player who’s responsible for the lion’s share of his team’s offensive output.

Pairing Simmons and Embiid with a shot creator like Walker could be huge for their continued development into elite NBA big men.

As of right now Simmons is averaging almost eight assists a night but is only assisted on about 40 percent of his shots a night, tied with ex-Sixer Jahlil Okafor for the 314th best mark in the league. That’s a pretty noticeable disparity for a player who spends almost half of the game as a power forward. If he were to play with a guard like Walker that number would undoubtedly go up, as would his points per game, even if it came at the expense of potential triple-doubles.

Or hey, maybe having another reliable outside shooter on the wings could actually help his triple-double totals, you never know?

One thing we can safely assume though is that by adding an elite point guard-sized point guard to the team’s starting five, the 76ers’ overall defensive efficiency would acquire rise.

As of right now, Simmons is in a pretty tough spot defensively, as he’s tasked with covering players in the paint on some possessions, and players on the wings the next. While this flexibility can be a significant assist to a coach looking to lock up potentially tricky matchups, it can also result in the 6-foot-10 guard matching up on uber-athletic point guards like John Wall, Kyrie Irving, or the aforementioned Kemba Walker, a matchup that can get out of hand in a hurry.

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By committing assets to acquire or signing a true point guard capable of matchup up favorably on both ends of the court against other point guards, the team could solely place Simmons on opposing forwards, where his athletic prowess could be incredibly valuable alongside Covington.

Ok, cool, so adding a versatile, two-way combo guard sounds better and better, but who can the team realistically target either via trade or free agency since Walker appears to be a longshot at this point?

Well, the 2019 free agency market is loaded with marquee point guards like Walker, Kyrie Irving, and Goran Dragic, but for my, and the Sixers money, the real names the team should look at are the second tier of players, like current Pacer Darren Collison, Simmons’ high school teammates D’Angelo Russell, or Boston‘s postseason sensation Terry Rozier.

Personally, I think it would be pretty sweet to steal Scary Terry away from Celtics in a move that would make Philly better while hurting Boston, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Next. What if Zhaire Smith is really, really good?. dark

While only time will tell how ‘Ben Simmons: Point Guard – Season 2’ will turn out for the Philadelphia 76ers, whether it ends with strengthened optimism about his long-term potential at the position or even more questions one thing is clear: A team needs to surround Simmons with shooters to be effective. Where that shooter players power forward or point guard really doesn’t matter on the offensive end, but swapping out a mis-fit like Dario Saric for a two-way point guard like Kemba Walker could be a significant upgrade on both ends of the court, and unlock Ben Simmons potential as a LeBron James-esque point forward.