The Philadelphia 76ers are leading the Eastern Conference with a 3 game lead over the Brooklyn Nets and should finish the regular season as the best team in the East. The last time that happened, the Sixers had the MVP, DOPY, and 6MOTY on their roster. They didn’t win the Larry O’ that year, but we got one of the most memorable clips in NBA Finals history.
The fact Allen Iverson and his crew prevented those Lakers from going 16-0 in the Playoffs says volumes about the kind of team those Sixers were. On the other hand, these Sixers have a close 2nd in MVP in Joel Embiid and a close second in DPOY in Ben Simmons, but look a lot more poised to win it all. Two questions were always raised for the modern Sixers when talking about their championship chances – can Embiid stay healthy, and can Simmons learn to shoot? Embiid has been in the best shape of his life, and it seems his conditioning is finally where it needs to be. Simmons’ shooting? Doc Rivers says that’s fine as well.
“Before the three-point line was really popular, there was a guy named Magic. No one cared that he didn’t make threes or shoot threes, they just loved how Magic played. I wish we could look at Ben more like that than needing him to be Curry.”Doc Rivers, Sports Illustrated
Not to say Ben Simmons is on Magic’s level, but in a vacuum, Doc makes a good point. If there was ever a player who gave us Magic flashbacks on the floor, it’s Ben Simmons. A 6’11’ athletic point guard with amazing passing skills and deadly when attacking the rim – sounds about right. But here’s the thing, we’re not in a vacuum. We’re in 2021 when the rules of basketball and the way it’s played make the geometry of the floor completely different from the 80s.
The Sixers don’t need Simmons to “be Curry.” They need him to be Denzel Valentine with 3.9 attempts per game, shooting 33.2% from behind the arc. They don’t even have to be three-pointers – if Simmons were capable of dropping, and maybe more importantly, willing to take long 2s consistently, it would open up the floor a lot for the MVP runner up.
Ben Simmons is a tremendous player, but we are talking about a team with Championship aspirations. When you’re a top 3 guy on a team with such goals, every detail counts – and not being able to shoot from distance in 2021 is more than a detail.