Going into the 2017 NBA Draft, the 76ers front office knew they needed a player that would compliment Ben Simmons. They knew that where they originally stood at No. 3 was going to result in a very good pick, but were unsure of a fit for their current squad. Players like Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, and Jayson Tatum were some names that came up for options with the third pick, but there was no fit.
Putting a guard who had the ability to transition as a point guard into playing off the ball at any time throughout an NBA game was something the Sixers NEEDED. This is not to say Ball and Fox cannot become good or even great shooters in their career because they both can. It was having them transition into an off-ball guard that was an issue.
The Sixers only answer was to trade up and guarantee the selection of the only top pick who could do that.
Enter Markelle Fultz…
Fultz has already shown the ability to play off the ball but has also shown the ability to be a dominant guard at the same time. In a game versus the Utah Jazz in the Summer League, he led the Sixers back from a significant fourth quarter deficit basically on his own.
Even though the Sixers lost the game, it answered questions about Fultz’s leadership ability. He showed that ability to be dominant.
Now pair that with the facilitating freak of Ben Simmons, and Sixers fans are foaming at the mouth.
As we all know, Ben Simmons missed all of last season with a broken foot. In his one season at LSU, he played power forward but also was a facilitator and averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He also averaged 5.5 assists per contest in two games for the Sixers during summer-league play last year. Fultz, on the other hand, played point guard in his lone college season at Washington, posting 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per contest.
Simmons was asked if he would be able to fit along side Fultz and what type of position he would play this season.
“I think you can move me anywhere,” Simmons said Sunday at the Las Vegas Summer League, per ESPN.com. “But I’m a starting point guard.I have no problem sharing the ball. [Fultz] doesn’t, either. Watching him play, he can share the ball.”
Let’s now assess how these two will be together on the court.
The starting five will include three rookies and a free agent:
PG Markelle Fultz, SG J.J. Redick, SF Robert Covington, PF Ben Simmons, C Joel Embiid.
Fultz, Redick, and Covington space the floor to allow Embiid space in the post and give Simmons passing options on the perimeter when he drives to the basket.
Once the Sixers get a rebound, the ball will be in Ben Simmons’ hands as the point forward and the Sixers will then have three players playing off the ball who can shoot and even create their own shot in Redick, Covington, and Fultz. Add a dominant player in Joel Embiid who can stretch the floor as a five and you have four potential players knocking down threes consistently.
But what if Simmons does not bring up the ball on certain possessions?
If Ben Simmons and Fultz are on the floor together, assume that Simmons won’t be the player bringing the ball up 100% of the time — that’s just basketball. With Simmons being 6’10, he has the ability to play down low. Fultz can look to set up an offense with two wings and two players down low who can stretch the floor. Simmons can overpower players on the block so having him play off the ball will work fine. It is not ideal as he works better facilitating the basketball and being the floor general, but he has the ability to play big.
Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz will have their struggles like any new players that come into the league. It is very rare to see a player dominate like Joel Embiid did the moment he stepped into his first game. With the Wells Fargo Center now SOLD OUT of season tickets, it will be an atmosphere unlike any other.
One thing for sure is that Ben Simmons is the primary ball-carrier with Fultz having to play off the ball in his first NBA season. The Sixers are a team looking to make a major leap after winning only 75 games over the past four seasons.