Philadelphia 76ers: Luka Doncic is a better fit with Joel Embiid than Ben Simmons

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

As the Philadelphia 76ers prepare to face off against the Dallas Mavericks one thing is clear; Luka Doncic is a better fit with Joel Embiid than Ben Simmons.

In a lot of ways, Luka Doncic is already the player that Philadelphia 76ers fans hoped Ben Simmons would develop into as a pro; a supersized floor general with an advanced handle, and defensive versatility.

Much like Simmons, Doncic will likely be named Rookie of the Year by a very wide margin, and if the initial voting results are of any indication, may very well be the first rookie to be named to an All-Star team since Blake Griffin accomplished the feat back in 2011 (as a redshirt rookie).

What Luka is doing right now is pretty incredible; he’s averaging the fourth most points (19.5) of any teenage player in NBA history behind only LeBron James (21.9), Carmelo Anthony (21.0), and most recently Kevin Durant (20.3) back in 2008, while filling up his stats sheet with 19.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, and five assists so far this season, all of which rank in the top-five among eligible players (rookies obviously).

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Not too shabby for the youngest EuroLeague MVP in history who some described as to ‘doughy‘ to be picked first overall.

But unlike the hyper-athletic Simmons, who looks like a ‘create your own player’ in a game of 2k, Doncic has become a force at both ends of the court, scoring without effort, while holding the 11th highest Real Plus-Minus rank of any small forward in the league, above players like Tobias Harris, Justise Winslow, and Jayson Tatum.

In a lot of ways, Doncic is the closest thing we’ve seen to a LeBron James-esque playmaker since, well, LeBron James, and will certainly be the face of the Dallas Mavericks organization for the next decade plus.

And if we are being honest, he would be a much better fit alongside Joel Embiid in Brett Brown‘s free flowin’ offense.

I know this is all hypothetical, but as the organization inches closer and closer to an irreversible collapse, especially if reports of Jimmy Butlers’ recent verbal dispute with Brown hold any weight, it’s a good time to imagine greener pastures, with a collection of players who perfectly complement each other both on and off of the court.

And it is through this very specific lens that we can view a hypothetical swap, and subjectively hypothesize if the team would be better or worse off with Simmons, or Doncic running the show.

For my money, I’m firmly in the latter camp.

You see, while Doncic doesn’t have Simmons generational body type, athleticism, or ability to protect the rim from the point guard position, he does possess a similar handle, similar passing vision, and an offensive skill set that’s light years past his competitors.

Offensively, it’s not even really fair to compare the two, as Doncic may have one of the most deadly step back Js in the league right now. While his 19.5 points a game isn’t too much higher than Simmons 16.3, his 37.6 shooting percentage from 3 is way higher; but to be fair, any number is higher than zero.

Just think about that for a second; fans in Philly let out a Super Bowl 52 parade-esque cheer anytime Simmons even attempts a jump shot, and Doncic is already hitting above the league average from downtown in less than 40 games.

That level of production from beyond the arc could effectively alleviate all of the teams current spacing woes.

As any Sixers fans already know, Embiid is often tasked with beginning a set at the top of the key, where his 3 point shot can open up the paint, and free up lanes to the basket. But even Embiid will (all too easily) admit that this is like fitting a square peg in a round hole. You see, Embiid is an alright 3 point shooter, knocking down 42 3s through the teams’ first 37 games, but he’s virtually unguardable in the paint one-on-one.

So, you may be asking, why not simply keep Embiid in the paint, where he is so, so game changing? Because Simmons can’t hit an outside shot to save his life.

Luka, on the other hand, is a great outside shooter, and a similar playmaker. If the 76ers had him running the show, as opposed to Simmons, Embiid could take up a permanent residency in the paint, leaving the spacing to non-Hall-of-Fame bound centers.

Furthermore, even if the 76ers were to keep with their current game plan, and run Doncic as a super-sized point guard, as opposed to as a shooting guard in Rick Carlisle‘s system, it would go a long way to fixing some of the team’s defensive issues moving forward.

Because Simmons runs the point on the offensive end of the court, and power forward on the defensive end, the team has been forced to rely on small forward Wilson Chandler to fill Dario Saric vacant forward position alongside Butler. This has worked okay thus far as the 76ers are 16-8 in the post-Saric/RoCo-era, but it’s been disastrous for Chandler’s production, as he’s averaging the worst stat line of his 11-year NBA career.

If the 76ers had a player like Doncic running the show, they could instead field a traditional power forward like, say, Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, or even Saric himself and avoid the out-of-position issues that have plagued Brown’s hybrid, combo-player system since Simmons came to town.

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That’s the beauty of Luka Doncic, unlike Ben Simmons, he can fit in virtually any starting five across the NBA and remain a productive player at a variety of different positions. Sure, his ceiling may not be as high, his floor is already that of an All-Star, with room to grow on the defensive end of the court once he’s fully matured into his eventual role. While this could all be a moot point if Simmons ever develops a reliable 3-point shot, as of right now one thing is clear; Luka Doncic would be a better fit on the Philadelphia 76ers alongside Joel Embiid than Ben Simmons.