Philadelphia 76ers: James Ennis needs to play over Jonathon Simmons

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

After Jonathon Simmons almost cost the Philadelphia 76ers a win in New Orleans, it’s time for Brett Brown to give James Ennis an extended look.

And then there were two.

When the Philadelphia 76ers announced that Furkan Korkmaz had torn his right meniscus in the lead-up to the All-Star break, Brett Brown‘s quiet ‘tournament‘ to determine the team’s reserve wing lost one of its three challengers, leaving only Jonathon Simmons and James Ennis to compete for the role long-term.

Initially, the winner appeared to be Simmons.

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Over the last five games, Simmons has scored 25 points in 78 minutes of action while hitting 3-8 shots from 3-point range.

Ennis, on the other hand, has only appeared in three of the team’s five games and has scored four points in 23 minutes of action while missing all three of his 3 point attempts.

Now neither of those stat lines are particularly impressive, but what can you really expect when a player is only afforded a few minutes of action a night, peppered sparingly between periods of inactivity.

Both players have been on the team for less than a month, so one could excuse that they still need time to assimilate into Brown’s scheme, but at some point, one of the players has to ‘win’ the battle.

After Simmons’ performance against the New Orleans Pelicans, it’s abundantly clear that player has to be Ennis.

With Jonathon in the backcourt alongside Ben (Simmons), presumably to serve as a Jrue Holiday-neutralizing defender, Simmons delivered one of the worst final minutes of a basketball game that I’ve seen in recent memory, prematurely fouling Holiday with 18.4 seconds to go (which isn’t necessarily his fault), and then missing a pair of vital free throws with 9.7 seconds (his fault) to go to give the Pelicans one final chance to win the game, down by one.

Sure, the 76ers got out of the Big Easy with a W, but the game very well could have gone the other way, dragging the team’s losing streak to two in route to a very bad matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a game where both Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic will be out.

If that’s not enough to make a head coach think about making a change, then I don’t know what is.

Though Simmons is often championed as a defensive dynamo, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus Ennis has been the more effective defender over the course of the 2018-19, owning a -0.91 defensive ranking, .44 points higher than Jonathon’s numbers.

Sure, that isn’t a particularly significant discrepancy, as Ennis ranks 69th among small forwards, and Simmons ranks 80th overall, but on the offensive side of the ball, the disparity is much more severe.

As things presently stand, Ennis is the 37th best offensive small forward in the league, owning a -.67 ORPM ranking. Simmons, on the other hand, has literally the worst offensive Real Plus-Minus at his position (-3.93), and the fourth-worst ranking of any player in the entire league.


Ennis is also a much better shooter, knocking down an average of 36 percent of his shots from 3 point range vs. Simmons’ 31.3 percent clip.

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So, if Ennis is a better defender, better offender (?), and a better shooter (he also averages more steals, blocks, and rebounds a game) why isn’t he the 76ers reserve wingman in Brett Brown’s rotation? You’ve got me.