Ben Simmons, who has been sidelined since suffering a sprained right shoulder early in Wednesday’s loss at Utah, is listed as questionable for the 76ers’ home game Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The team said that Simmons, who has missed two full games, will be evaluated Tuesday morning.
Whether Simmons plays or not against Cleveland, coach Brett Brown feels he has depth at the point guard position.
In Simmons’ absence, both Raul Neto and Trey Burke have taken advantage of increased playing time.
During the last three games, beginning with the contest in Utah, Neto has averaged 11 points, 4.7 assists and 2.7 turnovers in 29.8 minutes. Burke did not play in the Sixers’ first seven games, and he made his first appearance in Friday’s 100-97 loss at Denver. During Sunday’s 114-106 win over Charlotte, he played 19 minutes, 19 seconds and had 12 points, four assists, and one turnover.
There are only so many minutes to allocate and the competition for playing time is fierce, but Neto and Burke are certainly making a case for more minutes even when Simmons returns.
The Sixers didn’t practice on Monday but after Sunday’s win, Brown was asked about the rotation once Simmons comes back. Some of it, Brown indicated, could down to matchups.
“I feel like there are outliers in every game,” Brown said.
He then praised the work of Neto and Burke.
“It is possible to put Raul Neto and Trey Burke in the rotation with Ben Simmons,” Brown said. “Those two guards have played well, and it’s exciting. It’s one of those in-game adjustments that you could make, knowing that it is a unique lineup.”
Shooting guard Josh Richardson also has seen time at the point. If Neto and Burke get more minutes, Richardson will play more on the wing, decreasing playing time for others.
Brown is facing a lot of questions about rookie guard Matisse Thybulle, who was a major part of the rotation in the first five games but has seen his time cut dramatically. In the first five games, Thybulle, a defensive presence, averaged 20.7 minutes. During the last four games, he has averaged a little more than 5 minutes, and he didn’t play against Denver and appeared for just 2:34 of mop-up time against Charlotte.
Even with the reduced time, he entered Monday tied for seventh in the NBA in steals, averaging 1.8.
“It is part of his life. It is the evolution of being an NBA rookie on a really good team,” Brown said of the reduced minutes. “I am mindful of keeping his spirit up, keeping his confidence up and communicating with him.”
For now, Neto and Burke will continue to make their case.
“We all want to play,” Neto said. “When you get the opportunity, it means a lot.”
Burke seconded that thought. He is supremely confident, and not seeing action in the first seven games was difficult.