The Philadelphia 76ers are led by two of the NBA's brightest young stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. They are both All-Stars, they have shined on the game's biggest stage, and they have led the Sixers to success in recent seasons.
Yet, due to some shortcomings by both, questions remain about whether they fit together.
Simmons has drawn the most questions due to his lack of — or refusal to develop — a jump shot and that it causes spacing issues on offense. Embiid has drawn criticism for taking too many 3-pointers.
"It's a problem that a lot of GMs would like to have if it is a problem," said general manager Elton Brand. "They're two All-Stars. We just need to figure out how these pieces fit. I think you can play very fast. Playoffs are going to slow down, and you have a dominant post player you can play through also. It's a good problem to have if it's a problem."
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Simmons in particular has been maddening. He continues to evolve his game defensively and is on his way to becoming one of the better all-around players in the league. He has become a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but the jump shot is on the mind of everyone, especially when the playoffs roll around.
"It's going to be a thing," Brand said. "He's seeing how defenses are playing him and he's going to have that growth moment, and I think he's going to look back and say, 'I should've been doing this a long time ago.' "
Simmons has made the first two 3-pointers of his career this season and both have looked pretty good. His form is solid, but the Sixers want him to unleash that part of his game more.
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"The two he made, it looked good, from the corner in his spot," said Brand. "But as a point guard, he wants to make the best play every time and the higher percentage play. That's just the way his motor works."
It has caused even deeper issues since coach Bett Brown said on Dec. 7 he wanted Simmons to take one 3-pointer a game after he made his second of the year. Simmons has attempted only two 3-pointers since (both were end-of-quarter shots) and often looks like he refuses to take them.
Since then, Brown has changed the offense a bit as he has moved Simmons to the screener position on the pick-and-roll and continued to move Simmons away from the 3-point line and closer to the basket. Simmons' first instinct is still to pass or get to the basket rather than take the jumper.
"Ben's a point guard. He wants to make the best decision out there," said. Brand. "I never want to take away from all of the elite things he's doing as a second-time All-Star with his defense. He is spacing more, he is getting to the positions, he's learning and he's growing and he's an elite player. So I don't want to take away from all of the great things he does, but he's going to improve and when he does it's going to unlock another aspect for our team."
For the Sixers to play into June like they hope, they need Simmons to be able to knock down a jumper and give Embiid space to operate, but there are other options. The team has thought about benching Al Horford and inserting another shooter, but the easier option would be for Simmons to just shoot the ball.
Sixers Wire is part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.
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