Three Sixers Thoughts: Starting Point Guard, Isaiah Joe's Spot, Ben Simmons Nonsense
I’m going to go through the latest on the Simmons front, while also detailing why you all should be excited about Isaiah Joe.
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The news cycle around the Sixers these days is a bit ridiculous. Having the Ben Simmons saga take center stage amid a backdrop of meaningless but fun preseason basketball is the type of contrast that makes it difficult for media folk like myself to figure out what to highlight, and how to put things in proper context. So, here in this piece, I’ll try to split the difference. I’m going to go through the latest on the Simmons front, while also detailing why you all should be excited about Isaiah Joe.
Will the Simmons situation ever normalize?
For the past month or so, I’ve been amazed by how prolific the Ben Simmons news cycle has been. Each and every day, it feels like there’s a new update about the situation, some with actual insight, others without. Regardless, the noise level just never seems to relent.
Take last week for example: there was media day, when it seemed as if the topic was adequately covered and that the Simmons questions would begin to slow down. Then, the following day, Sam Amick of The Athletic broke a story that Simmons thinks his on-court partnership with Joel Embiid has run its course. The following day, Embiid responded by stoically eviscerating Simmons. The day after that, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report broke the news that the Sixers did not pay Simmons the 25% of his salary that he was owed. A couple days later, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice reported that the fines were beginning to take a toll on Simmons.
It just never ends. Whenever you think the situation will achieve homeostasis, another bombshell drops. Can this situation ever normalize? Can Simmons just happily hold out while the Sixers happily go on playing basketball without him? Or are we soon to get trapped in a will-he-or-won’t-he report news cycle? No one knows.
Let’s all agree on this, though: Simmons’ camp’s constant leaking of stories to the press has backfired. Rich Paul has overplayed his hand, and we are stuck in this situation in part because of his tactics.
His hope seemed to be that a massive circus involving huge media attention would spook the Sixers into trading Simmons at a time when they haven’t yet found an offer they like. It has not worked, not only because the Sixers are willing to forgo paying him, but also because the court of public opinion has decidedly ruled against Simmons. No one is railing against the Sixers for simply not making a trade; they are under no public scrutiny -- but Simmons is.
Paul’s job as Simmons’ agent is not only to put him in the best possible situation to succeed as a player, but to do so in a way that cultivates the best possible public image. It is not always easy to attain both of those things; in the Anthony Davis situation, for example, the latter took a bit of a hit, but that came in service of the former. In this case, though, he has massively failed on both fronts. Simmons’ Q-Rating among fans and around the league has gone down exponentially over the past few months, and he is no more likely to end up in his dream destinations now than he was at the end of the season. If anything, it’s less likely; the most popular rumored suitors these days are teams like Indiana and Minnesota -- a far cry from the glamour franchises that Simmons would reportedly like to go to.
Had Simmons put on a brave face, said the right things, and kept his trade aspirations out from leaking to the public (a difficult task, I concede), it’s possible that he would’ve gotten what he wanted by now. Instead, we’re stuck in a bizarre and neverending news cycle, with Simmons at the team at war every day, and neither side seeming particularly close to getting what they want.
Anyways, let’s get to a couple of preseason thoughts.
Who’s the starting point guard?
I was ready to crush Doc Rivers’ decision to start Shake Milton and bring Tyrese Maxey off the bench, but I actually liked what both of them did in their respective roles against the Raptors on Thursday. Milton wasn’t asked to do too much while playing with the starters, and Maxey was able to cook with a bench lineup after coming in midway through the first quarter.
I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world for Maxey to be the sixth man for the first 25 or so games of the season. Much like last season, there could be a feeling out period for him of what his role should be and how he should approach it (Doc, if you’re reading this, stop trying to get him to be Rajon Rondo). Also, having a bit more shot creation punch off the bench wouldn’t hurt; at the very least, it would decrease the number of Andre Drummond drives that we see.
Maxey is going to have a huge role regardless, but my only point here is that I didn’t hate seeing him in a sixth man role as much as I thought I would.
Isaiah Joe is ready
Isaiah Joe has to play. He’s too good not to. He can guard, he can handle, and he shoots more 3s than anyone on the team.
One of the things that appeals to me about having Joe in the rotation is being able to round out some lineups with awe-inspiring amounts of shooting. The Sixers could feasibly play a lineup of Seth Curry, Isaiah Joe, Danny Green, Georges Niang, and Joel Embiid for extended stretches. Being able to give Embiid those types of shooters surrounding him is an automatic recipe for success. You can’t double team him, and you likely can’t so much as stunt at him.
If there is a case for the Sixers going over expectations on their win total this year, it’s that they have more shooters than ever before. There is hope that they could achieve some type of Utah Jazz-lite offense, where they punish you with a smooth-flowing pick and roll based system surrounded by devastating amounts of shooting. Having snipers like Joe, Niang, and Furkan Korkmaz is a luxury that the Sixers generally haven’t had over the past handful of years.