PHOENIX - Describe the task given Brett Brown on how to use his plethora of big men with whatever adjective you choose: daunting, unenviable, difficult. It has been the most visited subject surrounding the 76ers this season, who are 7-22 after a horrendous defensive effort led to a 123-116 loss to the Suns on Friday.
A problem just as debilitating to the organization and problematic for the coach is the point guard situation.
Remember a few months ago when the topic surrounding that position was how much Ben Simmons would control the ball and how Jerryd Bayless, a proven, veteran combo guard, could benefit from playing with and help improve Simmons' game? Then came Simmons' fractured foot at the end of training camp and the torn ligaments in Bayless' wrist that recently required surgery and ended his season after just 71 minutes over three games.
So Sergio Rodriguez, signed in the offseason to a one-year deal as a security blanket for the position, and T.J. McConnell, a player who may never shed the "just happy to be in the league" label, were forced to be the head of the snake for a team that was hoping this would be a season in which wins came almost as regularly as losses.
Other factors have played into the team not having the success that was hoped - such as injuries to Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor and the continued struggle to figure out the big-man dilemma - but the point guard spot was really the first quandary Brown had to figure.
Think of a baseball manager losing his first and second starter, maybe even his third, and having to move up his fourth and fifth to be his top two hurlers. Not exactly an ideal position.
Rodriguez, with his flashy offense and matador defense, has gobbled up most of the minutes while McConnell accepts whatever role is given him with the grit and determination that allowed him to make the team a season ago.
Ideally, Rodriguez is a backup, perhaps maybe even the third point guard behind Bayless and Simmons. McConnell is a player you love to have around because he is everything you want in a basketball player when it comes to effort, but may forever carry the "hanging around" label.
"We started the season with Jerryd Bayless as our starting point guard and Ben Simmons was going to share some of that and be starting at a four. We lost them both for, so far, the season and we're obviously reevaluating Ben," said Brown. "So you have what used to be your second point guard and your third point guard now lifted a shelf higher and the expectations of grabbing that position come with it. I think that under the circumstances they've been very good. Now you need a starting guard.
"An NBA point guard is an elite position. It's a guard's league often. I think the most important position is your point guard and those two players that we have lifted up are extremely different in their skill set, whether it be defense or shooting or whatever. Then you can judge, who do they best pair with? Stats and analytics will show that one of them pairs better with Jahlil than Joel and so on. So I feel that they've held the flag well."
Some nights are good, like when Rodriguez fell sick earlier this month and McConnell stepped in and nearly posted a triple-double in a win at Detroit. Some nights bad, like Friday when the starting Phoenix guards combined for 47 points and 17 assists.
It is what it is for Brown, one of the many dilemmas with which he has to deal.
"I've proved that I belong here, now I've just got to do the things that got me here to keep me here," said McConnell. "That's what I'm focusing on doing every day. If Sergio is sick or goes down, I'm more than comfortable starting. But coming off the bench is what I've been doing and I'm comfortable with that, too.
"This isn't the way anyone saw the season playing out at our position, but here it is and we have to do the best we can and prove that we can handle what we've been handed."