76ers All-Star Ben Simmons said he is ready to return to his position as “facilitator” as new coach Doc Rivers ushers in a new era at Wells Fargo Center.
All eyes are on Simmons and fellow All-Star Joel Embiid following the arrival of Rivers, who replaced Brett Brown after the 76ers were swept by the rival Celtics in the first round of last season’s NBA playoffs.
Simmons and the 76ers struggled for consistency, especially inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, where the 2016 No. 1 draft pick went from point guard to power forward.
But with Rivers now calling the shots courtside, Simmons is poised for a return to his old position in Philadelphia, where the 76ers are eyeing their first championship since 1983.
“Yeah, if you want to put me in that position,” Simmons said Monday when asked if he would be back at point guard this season. “But yeah, facilitator. Just a playmaker.
“Coach wants me to make plays. … There’s numerous ways to do that. There’s scoring, getting to the rim, drawing defenders, there’s setting picks, and just creating options.
“So just me having the ball and being able to create different varieties of options is going to be tough for teams to guard, whether it’s me kicking it ahead and setting a pick and setting a back screen for [Embiid], it’s going to be tough for guys to guard, especially when we have guys running around knocking down threes.”
Simmons averaged 16.4 points, eight assists and 7.8 rebounds during the 2019-20 regular season.
The Australian star is set to be a focal point yet again for the 76ers, who have made moves under new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey — Danny Green, Seth Curry and Dwight Howard have arrived while Al Horford and Josh Richardson have departed.
Much has been said about franchise pillars Embiid and Simmons and their compatibility as the 76ers prepare for the opening game of the season against the Wizards on Dec. 23.
When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record, per Stats Perform. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid’s physicality in the paint and Simmons’ superior defensive skills are vital in Philadelphia.
The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game — 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.
Philadelphia also has a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 percent without one or both. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and 3-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).
“The spacing is huge, but it also comes down to us knowing where to be and in the right spots and following our guidelines,” Simmons said.
“Somebody is in a certain position and we know the other man needs to cut, that’s just going to make it easier. We’re just going to read and play off each other, and just continue to make the right plays.”
Rivers added: “He’s our facilitator, for sure. Unless I have a true, true point guard, like a Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo, I rarely . . . I don’t think I called anybody a point guard the entire year last season [with the Clippers].
“But Ben is clearly our facilitator, and Ben is special, man. When he gets the ball in the open floor, there’s very few like him. And we want to get him the ball in the open floor to let him be special.”