The X-Factor: Ben Simmons will make or break a 76ers title run
With the playoff schedule set for next weekend, it is time to deep dive one of the best Sixers teams of the 21st century as they head into the postseason. There’s no denying the sky is the limit with this team, from their elite center Joel Embiid, knockdown shooters in Green and Curry, the re-emergence of Tobias Harris, to a deep bench. Even with all of that going for Philly, there’s one player that I believe will be the “X-Factor” for the Sixers postseason hopes. That player is Ben Simmons.
The three-time All-Star has put together another great regular season. Simmons will end the season averaging around 16 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and nearly two steals a game. He’ll finish in the top three for Defensive Player of the Year and could very well win it behind his stellar play guarding 1-4 this season. He’s played his best game of his career this season with his 42-point, 12 assist, 9 rebound game against the Utah Jazz. He’s also still struggled with energy and half court offensive decision making, but all-in-all put together a solid season as the Sixers second star.
However, none of that will matter come playoff basketball time. We’ve seen Simmons struggle mightily in the post season before, and it has lead to second-round exits in the past. On top of that, those terrible post-season games have come due to issues we’ve seen Simmons struggle with this year in the regular season. There’s no denying what Ben is capable of on the defensive side of the ball, but in the post-season he’ll need to be effective on both sides of the court if the Sixers want to lift the Larry O’Brian trophy come July.
What also makes Simmons’ play this postseason so important revolves around what to expect from his teammates. We all know Embiid has what it takes to dominate in the postseason from past years. Danny Green has proven to be both a clutch and reliable three and D player in many postseason runs for multiple franchises. Doc Rivers, despite his struggles with the “Lob City” Clippers Era, does know what it takes to win a title like he did in ’08 with the Celtics. The bench is filled with veterans who know how to perform in deep playoff runs like George Hill and Dwight Howard. Yes, our bench also has young guys who haven’t experienced the postseason, but their expectations for the playoffs pales in comparison to Simmons’.
Simmons has the ability to absolutely take over games thanks to his rare skillset, and we’ve seen flashes of that this season. We’ve also seen him become a liability offensively, and that can’t happen in the playoffs. If Simmons is truly the second star on this team, he’ll play to the potential we all know he has under the brightest lights this postseason. If he doesn’t, this Sixers team simply can’t compete for the title.
Mandatory Credit: Ben Streicher.