When No. 1 pick Ben Simmons makes his NBA debut for the Philadelphia 76ers, he will be playing point guard, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons, who broke his right foot during training camp, is expected to return to the court in January.
"When he's ready to go to the court, my intention is to give him the ball and let him be the point guard," Brown said. "That's the plan. That doesn't just happen. It takes a little bit of time to introduce him."
Watch Simmons play for two minutes and you'll see that he has the mind of a point guard and the body of a power forward. He was always going to be a playmaker for the Sixers. The question, though, has been whether Brown would use him as their primary playmaker or more of a point forward, like Draymond Green, Lamar Odom or Simmons' mentor, LeBron James. Brown brought these names up in an interview with NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper at summer league in July, and said then that he wasn't entirely sure how he'd use Simmons, but he'd likely start him as a point forward. This, then, is a little bit of a shift.
It helps that Philadelphia's roster has been constructed in a way that makes sense for Simmons to play point guard. If Jerryd Bayless, who has missed most of the season because of a wrist injury, is healthy when Simmons returns, then he's the right sort of player to defend other point guards but play off the ball, like Patrick Beverley does for the Houston Rockets. Bayless, in fact, held this role last season for the Milwaukee Bucks when they shifted Giannis Antetokounmpo to point guard. The Sixers also have more shooters that in recent years, which will open things up for Simmons to create.
As much as this is about Simmons' biggest strength (passing), it's also about his biggest weakness (shooting). Unless he has transformed his jumper while hurt, he is simply much more effective with the ball in his hands than without it. As he gets acclimated to the NBA, it might be best to just hand him the keys and build up his confidence that way. Philadelphia fans are already giddy about the prospect of him running pick-and-rolls with Joel Embiid.