76ers

Do Sixers need a more aggressive Simmons on offense?

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Do Sixers need a more aggressive Simmons on offense?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we examine whether the Sixers need Ben Simmons to be more aggressive offensively.

Harris
The Sixers need a lot of things. They need Joel Embiid to stay healthy, they need Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless to hit open threes and they need to stop turning the ball over at such a high rate (18.3 turnovers per game). 

However, do they really need Ben Simmons to be more aggressive? I guess it depends on what "aggressive" means.

Are there games when it seems peculiar that Simmons isn't taking more shots, especially when he's hitting a high percentage of them? Yes. But Simmons doesn't have to necessarily take more shots for the team to be successful. 

Take the Sixers’ Christmas win over the Knicks for example. Simmons was 4 of 8 from the field on the way to an eight-point, eight-rebound day. He had only three assists but also turned it over only twice in 33 minutes.

The Sixers won the game because Simmons didn't have to be the best player on the floor. Embiid and JJ Redick combined for 49 points and were each a plus-25 for the game. While Simmons was 0 for 2 from the charity stripe, Embiid and Redick were 15 for 16. 

But here's the real thing: The turnovers were way down. The Sixers’ 15 turnovers were well below their season average, and the fact Simmons had only two is evidence he wasn’t trying to do too much.

So, no, I don't think the Sixers simply need Simmons to be more aggressive. They need him to be selectively aggressive, to attack the basket more in games when Embiid is out of the lineup and slowly but surely get more comfortable taking short jumpers. They need to make sure he is surrounded by the complementary parts needed for any rookie point guard to excel. To ask him to carry a team as a first-year player isn't anything we ask any other rookie whose team has playoff expectations. 

If you're expecting a more aggressive Simmons to be the answer to get the Sixers to the playoffs, you're really not accepting what the young man's skill set and limitations are at the moment.

Haughton
Yes … but only slightly.

Simmons walks a delicate line as a point guard with balancing his own offensive opportunities and setting up teammates. While the rookie is likely never going to being a scoring machine at the PG spot like Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving, there is still room for Simmons to eye his own shot more.

Simmons’ field goal attempts are down to 12.0 per game in December compared to 15.6 in November and 14.1 in October. He’s had four games in December in which he’s attempted single-digit shots, which occurred only once prior to this month (6 of 8 from the field Nov. 11 in Sacramento). The free throw attempts are also down to 3.3 nightly after getting 5.8 in November and 5.9 in October.

While those numbers seem like a slight dropoff, the dip is still important. Simmons’ scoring in December is down to 13.9 points per game and 16.8 overall. That’s after going for above 18.0 the first two months of the season. 

More importantly, Simmons’ all-around game benefits when he brings a high level of activity on the offensive end. He put up 9.5 rebounds a night during that strong month of December and a robust 2.7 steals.

Whether he’s hit an early rookie wall or teams are starting to get a better idea on how to handle Simmons, it’s clear he’s hit a bit of a lull on the court. 

Even if the shots aren’t falling, the Sixers have proven to be a better team so far this season when Simmons is on the attack. More of that, and he can regain that early-season rhythm he enjoyed during the first two months of the season.

Rob's Rants — Heat are now most hated NBA team

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Rob's Rants — Heat are now most hated NBA team

The reasons were all on full display Thursday in Miami. From the Justise Winslow’s goggles stomp, to Dwyane Wade’s take-down of Justin Anderson, to Goran Dragic’s flexing, to Kelly Olynyk’s cheap shots and man-bun, to Hassan Whiteside’s laughable belief that he is even in the same league as Joel Embiid, the Miami Heat have vaulted to the top of my current NBA hate list.

That spot had been reserved by the Boston Celtics since I was a kid. Red Auerbach, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, cheap-shot artist, Danny Ainge, and that towel-waving weasel, M.L. Carr, were an easy team to despise. Not to mention the arrogance of their fanbase. They were the Sixers' chief rival in those days. The difference with those Celtics squads and the Heat is, those Boston teams were great. This Miami team because of their lack of talent must play a physical, often cheap, dirty style. 

But the beauty of Game 3 of this first-round series was the Sixers beat them at their own physical game. Thanks in large part to the return of the masked man, Joel Embiid. 

Let’s start with Winslow purposely attempting to break Embiid’s goggles that popped off of his facial mask. The ref was standing right there, how that is not a technical at the very least is beyond comprehension. Then there’s Wade, a future Hall of Famer, no doubt. But a bigger whiner you won’t find and that is saying something in the NBA. Wade cries more than an infant teething. He should have been ejected or issued at the very least the only technical for his tangle with Anderson. The double technical was a classic case of pedigreed player versus a deep guy.  

Olynyk is a complete hack and in the vein of Wade, never thinks he commits a foul. Whiteside is no match for Embiid. He can only play one end and when Embiid is on the floor it’s clear he can’t even handle him on that one end.

It was thoroughly enjoyable to watch the Sixers silence the faux Miami crowd that is more interested in showing up overpriced, garish clothes and being seen than what is happening on the hardwood.       

It won’t be easy by any stretch but here’s hoping the Sixers can send this bunch packing in five. If Embiid stays healthy, the Sixers advance but between then and now, expect much of the same tactics from Miami. And another layer to the Heat hate.

Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Amir Johnson was getting dressed at the locker next to Justin Anderson when the veteran center looked up with a calm request.

“Tell the truth,” Johnson said with a smile.

That’s because Anderson was attempting to downplay his second-quarter run-in with Heat guard Dwyane Wade during the Sixers’ 128-108 Game 3 win Thursday in Miami (see game recap).

“It’s just a common foul. I’m not tripping about it,” Anderson said.

Anderson may not have wanted to make a big deal over the incident, but the foul was anything but common.

With 10:26 on the clock in the second quarter, Anderson locked up with Wade on the defensive end. Anderson pushed off as he attempted to front Wade in the post when the three-time champion latched onto the Sixers guard’s arm and flung him out of bounds. Anderson fell down into a couple photographers before getting up to confront Wade. Both players were separated and assessed taunting technical fouls for the play.

“I don’t remember,” Anderson said. “It was just a tough play for both of us. Just continue to move on. Next play.”

The skirmish was just one example of the heightened physicality in the series. Game 3 witnessed 56 total personal fouls and six technicals.

Despite playing just two minutes in the series prior to Thursday night, Anderson knew he was walking into a battle.

“They hit us in Game 1. They were physical from the start,” said Anderson, who had six points and four rebounds during nine minutes of action in Game 3. “I try to take every opportunity that I’m given. Watching the game for the first two games from the bench, I kind of recognized that the physicality was real high. I just mentally prepared myself that if I go in I’ve got to hit first or they’re going to hit me.”

So is it safe to say Anderson is the Sixers’ new enforcer?

“Like in hockey? Nah,” he said. “I just play hard. I play hard and make sure I do whatever I can to help our team win. That’s all that really matters.”