76ers

Brett Brown: Ben Simmons can be 'elite multi-purpose defensive player'

Ben Simmons made it clear this summer he wants to be the Sixers’ point guard. Less than a month from training camp, Brett Brown still is on board with that plan.

“We’ve gone on record, I’ve said what I’ve said and I don’t backpedal from any of it,” Brown said Thursday at the Sixers training complex while previewing his upcoming Coaches Clinic. “I’m excited to give him the ball and continue to grow him.” 

With that vision comes questions that will be played out over the season as the 6-foot-10 Simmons makes his rookie debut after suffering a Jones fracture last training camp. 

The Sixers made significant additions to their backcourt this summer, including point guard Markelle Fultz. How will the Sixers utilize these two No. 1 picks? Part of Fultz’s appeal to the Sixers was his ability to play off the ball and complement Simmons in a one-two combination. 

“Markelle and Ben co-existing and sharing stuff, and Ben running a lane, and Markelle leading the break and bringing it up the floor, that’s going to happen a lot,” Brown said. “Our sport is not static; it’s a free-flowing game. Through sort of that lens, I see those two guys co-existing well.”

Then there’s the defensive end. With this unique lineup, the Sixers will find themselves in mismatches, some in their favor and some against. Brown anticipates Simmons will be tasked with guarding one of the opponents’ best players. He has thought out how Simmons will maneuver through switches and isn’t worried about it. 

“When we start talking about who are we going to start and what are the matchups going to be, the transition defense is always most on our mind,” Brown said. “It would be easier if Ben could guard who guards him and you could just stay there. That’s probably not going to be the case often … 

“How that shakes out, how that plays out with Ben on the other side of the ball, I’m not too concerned about it. I think that because of his versatility, he’s going to be able to put out a lot of fires. I think because of his foot speed and length, if he gets cross-matched on a point guard, I’m OK with that. 

“If he gets sort of buried behind a four-man, he’s been a four-man his whole life, I’m OK with that. I think that his footwork on a five-man, he can get around and front and show his hands and take away the physical aspect of it with quickness. I just feel like he can do a lot because of his physical gifts.”

While the NBA world awaits Simmons’ debut, Brown has had a year to get to know Simmons' skillets during his rehab. Brown believes Simmons will deliver many unexpected facets to his game. 

“When people see his breakaway speed from baseline to baseline and his ability to react, they’re going to say, ‘That is an A-plus athlete,’ ” Brown said. “His vision of trying to make people better and seeing things happen a little bit before most others see it is going to surprise people. I think most importantly out of all of it, I feel like he has a chance to be an elite multi-purpose defensive player.” 

Simmons is among the players participating in voluntary offseason workouts at the Sixers practice facility. Training camp will begin on Sept. 26. 

“I feel that Ben is excited,” Brown said. “I think that he’s just really looking forward to assuming that role.”