With sports on hold, everyone is finding interesting sports-related ways to entertain themselves, including some fun thought experiments. One classic example: the re-draft.
The folks over at Bleacher Report have been re-doing recent NBA drafts, and they reached the crucial 2016 NBA Draft, a big moment for The Process. The Sixers finally landed the No. 1 overall pick, and in a draft with a generational talent named Ben Simmons.
A two-time All-Star who has become one of the best defenders and passers in the league, most Sixers fans can't imagine the team without the 6-10 point guard. Apparently, B/R can.
In their re-draft this week, the B/R folks decided to have the Sixers use their No. 1 pick not on Simmons, but on Raptors swingman Pascal Siakam. It feels ... almost blasphemous?
Here's an excerpt from B/R's explanation:
Though fit isn't a primary consideration, it's illustrative of Siakam's worthiness at No. 1 to imagine what the Philadelphia 76ers might look like with him alongside Joel Embiid instead of Simmons. Suddenly, the spacing crunch is gone. Suddenly, defenses would have to guard a Siakam-Embiid pick-and-roll honestly, rather than going under every screen and daring Simmons to shoot (which he won't). Suddenly, the Sixers offer opponents no place to hide, no weakness to exploit—all while giving up almost nothing on defense.
Philly would rather have Siakam than the player it picked, and so should every other team in this draft.
Still feels blasphemous, but also fascinating.
Siakam, who went No. 27 overall in 2016, reached stardom in a very different way than Simmons, going from afterthought to X-factor on an NBA champion seemingly overnight. He, like Simmons, is hyper-athletic and strong on defense. But it's hard to deny his game fits a "build around Embiid" ethos much better that Simmons' game on paper, by spreading the floor and adding a player who can get his own offense in the half court.
Before the 2019-20 season was paused, Siakam was scoring 27.5 percent of his points from beyond the arc, a solid ratio in the modern NBA. His mid-range shot leaves plenty to be desired, but it's certainly more useful and reliable than what Simmons brings to the table outside of, say, eight feet.
So ... would the Sixers actually be better off with Siakam?
It's hard to say, definitively, because building a team on paper is only half the equation.
Simmons is such a dynamic and creative player. You can place a value on his scoring and assist numbers, but it's much harder to quantify his vision and his defensive gravity. He absolutely needs to become a better shooter if the Sixers, as constructed right now, have a shot at an NBA championship.
But I think the Sixers are happy to keep Simmons, who is just 23 years old and was in the middle of his best season yet before the NBA suspended its season, alongside Embiid as they continue to build a contender. Simmons' ceiling is yet to be realized. On the other hand, it feels like we're approaching Siakam's limit. I'd rather gamble on the still-young star who can maybe become unstoppable.
If he adds as a mildly consistent jump shot, Simmons is instantly a megastar, and the Sixers are celebrating that No. 1 pick for years to come.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.