KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The 76ers feel Ben Simmons’ injury the most on the defensive end.
The NBA All-Defensive candidate has drawn the assignment of stopping All-Stars and All-NBA players more than any other player in the league this season.
“Defensively, you feel the pain,” coach Brett Brown said before Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers. “You can talk about, might you look at some zone. You can talk about, might you do some more switching.”
The days of telling a single Sixer he’s going to guard Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Miami’s Jimmy Butler, and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam are over right now.
“Ben’s versatility was off the charts,” Brown said. “Even him [defending] centers didn’t really worry me. I don’t think people understand how bull-strong he is.
“So it’s complicated and bothersome.”
That’s why the Sixers are going to guard those types of players by committee. It’s also why Brown said he would be lying if he didn’t admit “you do feel an immediate level of pain with Simmons’ loss.”
Simmons will have surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee. The loose piece was discovered after he suffered a temporary partial dislocation of his left kneecap in Wednesday’s win over Washington.
A loose body means a piece of cartilage or bone was ripped off during the injury and is floating in the knee joint. The piece will be removed arthroscopically. The Sixers have not ruled out Simmons returning late in the playoffs.
Brown said the Sixers are settling into the starting lineup to a point.
Right now, Shake Milton is listed as the starting point guard with Alec Burks as his backup. In Friday’s win over Orlando, Burks finished with 22 points and two assists while playing 27 minutes, 31 seconds. Milton had six points and eight assists in 25:04.
Burks’ flexibility is a reason why the coach is comfortable keeping him in his reserve role. His ability to create his own shot also makes him valuable as a shooting guard.
“I don’t feel restricted to play Alec Burks as only a one,” Brown said. “I think he and Shake can coexist just fine. And so to me, Alec’s got the flexibility to pay 1-2, 2-1. I think that is how I see the emergence of him.”