2019 Free Agency was (and still is) an absolute frenzy. Moves are literally being made every minute and one of the bigger teams in this year’s frenzy were the Philadelphia 76ers. They had three of their five starters eligible for free agency, and eight players all together eligible to walk from their team.
In the end, the Sixers ended up allowing JJ Redick to sign with the New Orleans Pelicans. Philly then opted to re-sign Tobias Harris to a 5 year $180 million contract. Following that move, Jimmy Butler was signed, and traded to the Miami Heat in exchange for Josh Richardson. To cap things off they signed Al Horford to a 4-year $109 million contract.
Things will certainly look a bit different now in the city of Philadelphia. There are a lot more questions than answers at this point, but I’ll attempt to paint a picture of what the most successful version of this team will look like.
STARTING FIVE DEFENSE
This Sixers team will have to be a team that is absolutely suffocating on defense. Like they have to have everyone completely buy in on the defensive side of the ball and commit to holding teams to very difficult shots against a big starting line up. Our starting 5 guarding the PnR will be a little tricky, J-Rich and Simmons will probably be switching everything, Tobias struggled to stay in front of quick guards, but he too will likely switch everything. In today’s space, either Horford or Joel Embiid will likely have to guard at the perimeter, if not a guy who can dribble, at the least a guy who will knock down the three. Horford would be best to do this (for now) because Embiid is an elite rim protector, and that’s not a guy you want to take away from the cup. Whatever deficiencies Horford has when guarding these guys will HAVE to be exploited on the other side of the ball, that will be covered later. Sixers starting 5 is simply going to have to out hustle, and outsize our opponents on defense. Sixers will need to create a lot of turnovers, force bad shots give to Ben, J-Rich, and Tobias a chance to get some easy points in transition. This starting line up is stock full of good defenders, but even more importantly they’re high IQ defenders, maybe with the exception of Harris.
The bench isn’t completely filled out at this point, so we won’t go too deep into this part, but this would be the unit that plays a helter-skelter type defense. Create massive havoc with lots of switching, maybe traps, just really scrappy defense, this unit would get out and run and does a lot of running. A possible bench lineup of J-Rich/Simmons, Smith, Thybulle, Scott, and whatever player the club gets with the money left. The bench is still a work in progress.
STARTING FIVE OFFENSE
These moves put the onus on Benjamin Davis Simmons to start shooting the basketball. There’s no Redick, no Butler to relieve you of ball handling duties anymore–Ben Simmons flat out will have to shoot. He will have to be more aggressive, he will have to look to score, he will have to become a force on offense, similar to Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets. Plain and Simple. The offense is going to get clunky at times, it will help that Richardson can handle the ball, and create his own shot better than Redick, but obviously, he doesn’t shoot at the clip like Redick does. Tobias + AL Horford pick and roll, pick and pop will have the potential to be deadly, both rank among the best in that play style, but again, that depends on Simmons developing a jumper. One good thing about having Richardson instead of Redick is that he can reliably do more with the ball than Redick. While he obviously doesn’t shoot like Redick, he still can produce around the same amount of points as Redick, just with more variety. So DHO’s from Redick and Embiid will probably need to look like PnR with Simmons and Horford/Embiid minus the annoying turnovers JJ would make more often than not. Simmons did not run the PnR very much last year but when he did, he was very good at it. He averages almost 1 point per possession and shot 56% coming off of screens. The biggest problem with running Simmons in PnR is defenders will just go under, that’s where Ben Simmons will have space to show off his shiny new jump shot, hopefully. Embiid post-ups are likely going to be the bread and butter of this offense, it’s one of the most efficient plays in the game, Embiid posts up 8 times per game and scores close to 9 PPG from post-ups, with 30% of those possessions resulting in free throws, but the near 14% turnover frequency definitely needs to improve. This offense will likely look very different from what fans have seen these last two years from the Sixers offense, it will probably be slower, more methodical, and play through Embiid and Harris, players who aren’t going to run n gun. So it’s going to be on Ben Simmons to not be “average” in the half court.
Almost forgot, I mentioned earlier Horford may be asked to do a bit of an uncomfortable task by guard on the perimeter, well the offensive end is where he can impose his will and pose problems for teams. If teams are playing smaller quicker guys that stretch the floor, it will be on Brett to involve those guys in action on defense to expose mismatches
As I mentioned the bench is still a work in progress, right now the optics don’t look spectacular, as Mike Scott is the only shooter off the bench, but this bench is far from complete. Ideally, the bench would be the group Simmons would really be able to shine with as mentioned with the defense part and some shooters. Again, this is all arbitrary as it depends on how the Sixers choose to fill out the roster.
However the Sixers decide to go about filling out their roster, one thing is for sure. Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris are going to have to play like the max players they are if they want to win, and Ben Simmons will have to develop some semblance of a jump shot if he want to win, or much less, wants to be paid like Harris and Embiid.